Sun poisoning or photoallergy are some of the common names given to photodermatitis. It’s basically a kind of skin reaction where the allergen is present in the skin and gets activated upon exposure to sunlight. It results in urticarial rashes upon exposure of uncovered skin to ultraviolet radiation. Photodermatitis can have long-term and serious complications including sun cancer when not treated properly, with secondary exposure to the allergen leading to skin conditions which can become eczematous. This makes it important to understand sun poisoning which is key to knowing how to treat and prevent it.

The symptoms associated with photodermatitis though similar to sunburns, are a little bit more exaggerated. The skin typically develops red angry patches that may be itchy and develop bumps or blisters. There may be pain or burning sensation along with swelling in the affected areas; in some people, difficulty in breathing, fever, nausea and headaches may also result and could get confused with viral infections. In some cases, the skin may become darkened (hyperpigmentation), usually on or around the facial area.

The causes of photodermatitis are numerous ranging from medications, infections, pregnancy and exposure to cleaning products, some cosmetic procedures and even tattoos! However, the commonest allergens are certain drugs including Fluoroquinolones, sulfonamides, NSAIDs, Quinidines, Tetracyclines, Barbiturates, Cytostatics, oral contraceptives, antihistamines, etc.

Certain skin products including some perfumes, deodorants and cosmetics containing products like retinoid, boric and salicylic acids, phenol, St John’s Wort, para-aminobenzoic acid, oil of bergamot and some polyunsaturated fatty acids and drugs containing mercury can all lead to photodermatitis when exposed to sunlight.

Prevention and protection from the sun becomes key to certain people to avoid photodermatitis and even sunburn. If you rare photosensitive, some ways in which you can protect yourself include:

  • Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight, especially sunbathing during the middle of the day.
  • Use sun lotion with an SPF of 30 or more when going out in the sun.
  • Avoid going out in the sun after going through chemical peels or tattooing.
  • Limit the use of cosmetics and perfumes on exposed parts of the body when going out.
  • Be aware of the side-effects of your medications as some increase sensitivity to normal sunlight; ask your doctor if needed.
  • Cover exposed part of the skin with tightly-woven cloth or wear a wide-brimmed hat when you can’t avoid going out in the sun.
  • Wearing long gloves and large sun sunglasses helps protect sensitive areas.
  • Limiting outdoor times to early morning or evenings.
  • Use UVR-absorbing films on your car and house windows to avoid unnecessary exposure too.

If you feel you are developing photodermatitis or sunburns frequently, it’s imperative you see a dermatologist at the earliest – especially as India is a tropical country located close to the equator. If you are living in Bangalore, the best treatment available is at Dr Dixit Cosmetic Dermatology, where the highly-renowned and much-experienced Dr. Rasya Dixit can offer you the best and latest treatments available in the country.

It’s the least you can do for your skin!

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The information provided in Dr. Dixit's answer is for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice. The information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with a qualified health professional who may be familiar with your individual medical needs.