Believe it or not, people can be allergic to the sun – and it manifests in the form of a skin rash. “Prickly heat, technically known as Polymorphic Light Eruption or PLE is an itchy rash,” explains Dr Daniel Glass of The Dermatology Clinic London.
It’s that itchy, sneezy time of year when checking the pollen count becomes more important than checking the weather. Alongside hay fever, the approaching summer months bring with them a number of threats for allergy sufferers. From bee stings to sun allergies (yes, you can be allergic to the sun), this is your ultimate guide to how to treat and manage summer-related reactions.
It’s most common among people who are not usually exposed to much sun, meaning that during the summer months or during holidays, it causes the skin to flair-up. “It mostly (75% of the time) affects adult females aged 20–40, but is particularly common in individuals who live in areas where sun exposure is uncommon (e.g. northern Europe), who then
expose themselves to the sun shine like on a hot holiday, which can affect up to 10% of women.”
Unfortunately, the best treatment is to simply avoid sun. “Sun avoidance is an important part of managing this condition. It can also be treated with steroids but can be prevented from recurring with desensitization under the guidance of your dermatologist.”
Bee stings are never pleasant for any one (including the bee) but for some, it can be life threatening. When a bee stings, it releases a venom which contains proteins that effect the skin and the immune system, but for some, it can cause an extreme immune reaction. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to safeguard against a bee sting, but it is important to know what to do if it occurs.
A bee’s sting usually causes mild pain and moderate swelling that mainly subsides completely after a few hours. A soothing skin cream like Savlon or normal pain killers can be taken to alleviate symptoms. However, someone with an allergy will react quite differently.
A mild allergy results in more significant swelling that takes longer to subside. A severe allergy can cause anaphylaxis and needs urgent medical attention. Signs of anaphylaxis can be hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, a weak pulse and loss of consciousness. This type of reaction needs to be treated in hospital by doctors.
HAY FEVER AND POLLEN ALLERGY
“Hay fever is a common allergy to pollens from grass, trees and flowers, and it generally starts at this time of year. The main features are an itchy watery nose (rhinitis), sneezing, and itchy red puffy eyes. It can also cause an itchy throat and cough, as well as aggravating asthma if you have it,” explains Doctor Clare Morrison of Medexpress.
She advises a course of various tricks and treatments in order to keep symptoms at bay and alleviate flair-ups; “In order to prevent the worst of the symptoms, avoid contact with pollens and grasses by keeping away from parks and gardens, particularly when levels are at their highest, in the early morning, evening, and at night” she says. “If you do go out, have a shower and change your clothes when you get inside. Keep your windows shut and avoid drying your washing outdoors.”
When it comes to treatments, Dr Morrison suggests antihistamines, anti-allergy eye drops as well as steroid nasal sprays for moderate symptoms. “In severe cases, your GP may prescribe an injectable steroid, which will last for a few weeks, possibly the entire hay fever season. However, it tends to be given as a last resort, because steroids can cause side effects, including weight gain, dyspepsia, raised blood sugar, and osteoporosis (weak bones),” she advises.
As with any skincare products, it’s possible for the skin to react badly and the same is true of suncreams. It’s usually down to certain ingredients within the formula, which while can ultimately be avoided by choosing a different formula, can also be hard to identify initially.
Common culprits found in sun cream formulas that can be irritating are are perfumes, cinnamates and dibenzoylmethanes. If you’re having issues, try a sun care from brands like Avene, which have been specifically formulated for the most sensitive of skins.