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Skin Care and Diseases

Skin Rash Caused by Sun Exposure

08/19/2011

Question:

What can cause me to suddenly start having a skin rask due to sun exposure? How can this be prevented besided staying out of the sun. I have always been able to swim, etc. and have never had a problem. I am 66 years old and prefer to be tanned but I do not blister.

 

Answer:

Several things can potentially contribute to a rash from being out in the sun. If this is an isolated incident it may have been caused by a change in medication you are taking or even a change in your diet that made you more susceptible to the sun. It sounds like you have developed Polymorphous Light Eruption or sun poisoning which looks like a skin rash. Women are more likely to get this than men. It occurs in susceptible people when they are exposed to sunlight that is more intense than usual, for example as in the first time you go out in the sun during the summer or when you expose a body part to sunlight that has no prior sunlight exposure. It may also occur if you travel to a higher latitude or lower latitude such as to a country closer to the equator where the sunlight has more strength.

Normally the resulting skin-rash reaction heals within 7-10 days with no treatment as long as additional sun exposure is avoided. If you have recently changed any medication you are taking, check to make sure that it does not increase sensitivity to the sun. Since you now know that you are sensitive, in the future you need to use sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays when going out into the sun. (Sunlight is made up of UVA and UVB rays). Make sure the sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA since these protective agents are more effective in preventing these breakouts.

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Response by:

Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD Tatiana M Oberyszyn, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology
Associate Professor of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University