The sun is essential for life but, when it comes to sunbathing, it is crucial to take care in order to avoid burns and skin allergies. Dermatologists report an increase in the number of people turning up to consultations, suffering from various types of allergies directly related to exposure to the sun.
According to Enrique Herrera, head of Dermatology and Venereology at the Hospital Clínico Universitario, and professor in this specialised area at the Universidad de Málaga (UMA), spoke to SUR and said the most common reaction is that of idiopathic photosensitivity.
This allergy manifests itself in two ways, either as an outbreak of heat rash or as a polymorphous light eruption. People affected suffer irritation and stinging as blemishes, blisters, red stains and scabs appear on the skin. As an idiopathic process (of spontaneous appearance and of unknown causes), the allergy can suddenly appear and then disappear when you least expect it. Experts suspect that this allergy is linked to immunological changes in the body of the person suffering.
"It is important to note the increasing number of cases of allergies and damage caused by the sun. Photosensitivity reactions are quite common and the reason behind many consultations," explained Doctor Herrera. The dermatology expert highlighted how many cases of allergies caused by photosensitivity are not diagnosed correctly and are confused with a rash or eczema on the skin.
Another type of allergy involving the sun is the photosensitivity reaction triggered by another agent in addition to the sun's rays. On the one hand, phototoxicity can be a factor, causing direct damage to the skin's cells, resulting from a reaction between a substance the patient has on the skin and a medicine they are taking, such as antibiotics, anti-depressants and diuretics. The symptoms include a sharp burning sensation in areas most exposed to the sun: the arms, face, neckline and legs. On the other hand, there are photoallergic problems, related to a reaction between the sun and something the patient has taken, such as anti-inflammatories. Eczema appears on the skin when sunbathing.
In order to prevent allergic reactions to the sun, photoprotection against visible light is most recommended. Avoidance of sun exposure during the day is advised, and, where this is not possible, clothing with long sleeves and without low-cut necklines is recommended. As for medicine, doctors tend to prescribe corticoids and antihistamines. According to the UMA Professor of Dermatology, systemic antimalarials are used in the case of idiopathic allergies.
In the instance of patients with a chronic sun allergy, phototherapy is prescribed from February onwards, in order for them to get used to light exposure.