What the Yuck: Can I be allergic to sunlight?
April 1st, 2012
09:00 AM ET

What the Yuck: Can I be allergic to sunlight?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: When I’ve been in the sun for a few days, my chest and arms get itchy and break out in red splotches. Am I allergic to sunlight?

A: As weird as it may sound, it is possible. There are actually a few types of sun allergies.

The most common is polymorphic light eruption (PMLE), which often shows up - sometimes within minutes - as an itchy red rash on body parts exposed to sunlight, especially the neckline, the backs of the arms, the face and the hands.

You could also simply be extra-sensitive to the sun - medical conditions, such as lupus, can increase your sensitivity, as can medications like Retin-A, sulfa-based drugs (like some antibiotics), and certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your doctor so she can figure out what’s going on. Treatment for a sun allergy typically involves steroid creams or antihistamines.

And, of course, if you’re prone to bad reactions when you bask, be vigilant about using sunblock and covering up.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.