Symptoms of Sun Allergy

Updated at: Apr 11, 2013
Symptoms of Sun Allergy

One of the most prominent signs of sun allergy is redness followed by formation of fluid filled bumps that may break out upon further exposure to sunlight.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
AllergyWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Sep 06, 2012

Symptoms of Sun Allergy

Sun allergy is a problem, which is triggered by exposure to sunlight. The different types of sun allergy include polymorphic light eruption (PMLE), actinic prurigo, chronic actinic dermatitis (CAD) and solar urticaria. The symptoms that you experience depend on the particular type of sun allergy you have. Read to know the symptoms of sun allergy.

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE): PMLE, also known as sun poisoning, is one of the most common type of sun allergy. The symptoms may start within minutes to several hours after exposure to sunlight.  The common symptoms of PMLE are:

  • itchy skin and tiny bumps (papules) that may be whitish or yellowish in appearance on a red background
  • flat bumps (plaques) may also appear
  • blood vessels become inflamed causing the skin to appear red and swollen.

The symptoms may vary in severity from “prickly heat’ like lesions to more severe and persistent symptoms. Symptoms usually start on the skin exposed to sun, such as the neckline, the back of the arms, the face and the hands. In most people, the symptoms subside within a few days of prevention of exposure of the affected areas to sunlight. This type of sun allergy mostly occurs in spring and early summer.

Actinic prurigo: This type of sun allergy usually occurs in younger people (children and young adults). Symptoms of actinic prurigo include:

  • red, raised patches of skin and itchy bumps that start on the exposed skin and may extend onto the skin that wasn't exposed to sunlight
  • fluid filled bumps that may break
  • chapped and split lips (cheilitis).

The symptoms usually start on the cheeks, neck, ears, arms and hands. In some people, lesions of actinic prurigo may heal with scarring. The symptoms mostly start in the summer months and wane by late autumn.

Chronic actinic dermatitis (CAD): This is a rare type of sun-induced eczema, which can be very severe in some patients. People with this type of sun allergy have extremely sensitive skin that reacts to sunlight faster and increases their risks of severe eczema. It usually occurs in older people (often begins in middle or old age). CAD may cause thick patches of dry, itchy and inflamed skin. In some people with large affected areas, there may be "islands" of exposed skin that aren't affected. It most often occurs on exposed skin of the face, scalp, back and sides of the neck, upper chest and back of the arms and hands. Palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet may also get involved in some people. The symptoms are most severe in spring and summer and may often persist during winter. Symptoms of chronic actinic dermatitis and contact dermatitis (allergy caused by direct contact with an allergy-causing substance) are fairly similar.

Solar urticaria: This causes reaction or symptoms within minutes of exposure to sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can cause hives, itching and blisters. These symptoms tend to improve within an hour after covering the exposed skin. This type of sun allergy can affect not only the exposed areas but also those areas that are covered by clothes. It usually affects older people.


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