Sun Rash On Skin: Causes, Symptoms, And How To Treat It

Written by Swathi E, Certified Skin Care Coach

Many people develop a rash when they step out into the sun and attribute it to sunburn. What if we told you that the sun rash on your skin could also be due to a sun allergy? Yes, sun allergy rashes are red and itchy and can occur anywhere on the body. They may appear whenever you go out in the sun. But, that does not mean you should always sit indoors. There are several ways to treat and prevent this type of rash.

In this article, we discuss the cause, symptoms, treatments, and how to prevent sun rashes. Keep reading!

What Causes Sun Rash?

The rash that occurs due to sunlight exposure is called sun rash or sun allergy. The most common type of sun allergy is a polymorphic light eruption.

Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist, says, “A sun rash usually appears as tiny red bumps or raised patches of skin, and they may be itching or burning.” Though the exact cause of sun rash is unknown, sensitivity to UV radiation could be responsible for it (1). It may elicit an immune reaction and kick your body into defense mode, leading to rash formation.

People that are at risk of having an allergic reaction to sunlight are (1):

  • Light-skinned people.
  • Women aged between 20 and 40.
  • People at high altitudes.
  • People with a family history of sun rash.

Learn about the symptoms of sun rash in the next section.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sun Rash?

Sun rash can occur several hours or days after sun exposure. The most common symptoms include:

  • Itchy red patches.
  • Small bumps or blisters in a cluster.
  • Raised or rough patches of skin.

In some rare cases, you may experience fever or tiredness. Sun rash can occur anywhere on the body, but it usually appears on the neck, chest, forearms, backs of hands, lower legs, and feet.

Do you want to treat your sun rash at home? Find out the treatment options in the next section.

How To Treat Sun Rash?

Usually, sun allergy rashes go away after a few days. According to Dr. Haley, “Common treatments for sun rash may include applying a cold compress, using hydrocortisone cream, or taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.”

1. Over-The-Counter Products

To get rid of itching and rash quickly, try the following over-the-counter products:

  • Anti-itch steroid cream
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Pain-relieving medications
  • Emollients or moisturizers (once the rash starts to heal)

2. Home Remedies

Some of the home remedies you can use to treat sun rash are:

  • Apply a cold compress on the affected area for 5-10 minutes. Then, remove it and reapply it after 5-10 minutes. Repeat the process to soothe the skin.
  • Take a shower with cool water to relieve the itching.
  • Apply aloe vera gel to reduce inflammation. It also has a protective effect against radiation skin damage and, thus, may help you heal quickly (2).

If itching persists, you may consult a doctor who can prescribe stronger medications to relieve the symptoms. For example, anti-allergy medications or corticosteroids may help heal your sun rash allergy. Your doctor may also perform phototherapy to reduce the occurrence of these rashes.

Though you can treat sun rash fairly easily, they can recur. So, it is important to learn how to keep your skin protected. Read on to learn the ways to prevent sun allergy rash.

Daily Routine To Keep Your Skin Protected

Incorporating the following routine in your daily life may help you prevent sun rash:

  • Use sunscreens containing physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as they protect your skin from UV radiation ( 3).
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30+ half an hour before you go out. Reapply it every two hours or sooner if you are sweating too much.
  • Try to include foods rich in calcium, selenium, zinc, and beta carotene in your diet to protect your skin from UV damage (4).
  • Wear long-sleeved dresses or shirts.
  • Avoid the sun between 10 am and 2 pm as much as possible as UV radiation is the strongest at this time.
  • Strictly avoid using tanning beds.

Sometimes, sun rash can mimic symptoms of other ailments and confuse you. For better clarity,  continue reading to learn about the different types of sun-induced ailments.

How Is Sun Rash Different From Sunburn And Heat Rash?

While sun exposure is the cause of both sunburn and sun rash, they are not the same.

Sunburn is a radiation burn caused by overexposure to UV light, which results in reddish skin. You may also develop swelling, blisters, fever, chill, or weakness in case of a severe sunburn. Usually, a sunburn heals in a few days. However, the likelihood of developing skin cancer increases with an increase in sunburn incidents (5).

Unlike sunburn and sun rash, heat rash does not occur due to the sun alone. Instead, it occurs due to the sweat glands getting blocked, which causes skin inflammation and rashes. As a result, you may get small blisters or deep lumps that are itchy. These rashes appear on the armpits, elbow creases, or the groin area. In most cases, the rash heals after the skin cools down  (6). However, you may need to consult a doctor if the area becomes infected.

If your sun rash does not reduce or recurs despite taking all the precautions, it is time to see a doctor.

When Should You See A Doctor?

Consult a doctor if the itching on your sun rash does not reduce. A doctor can also help you rule out other infections, like contact dermatitis. Expert diagnosis will let you know what kind of sun-induced rash it is.

If you do not have a history of sun rash and suddenly get one, seek immediate medical attention. Also, observe your rash and treat it immediately if it is painful or spreading. You should also be careful if you experience nausea or fever.

Sun rash is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. It affects people who are hypersensitive to UV light or have sun allergies. The neck, chest, forearms, backs of hands, lower thighs, and feet are the most common areas where sun rash occurs. Depending on the underlying cause, it usually goes away in a few days. Over-the-counter lotions and medicines can be used to treat it. However, consult your doctor if your rash returns despite taking precautions or does not appear to get better with treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Benadryl help with sun rash?

Yes. Benadryl is an antihistamine which may help reduce the redness, itching, and other symptoms of sun rash. Consult your doctor for further information.

What lotion is good for sun rash?

You can use gentle moisturizers or creams containing hydrocortisone for relief.

Key Takeaways

  • Sun rash occurs due to the continuous exposure of skin to sunlight.
  • You may experience rough or itchy red patches, small bumps, or blisters.
  • Use anti-itch steroid creams or apply aloe vera gel to treat this sun allergy. Consult your doctor if the itching on your sun rash does not subside even after using remedies or medications.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Polymorphic Light Eruption
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430886/
  2. Aloe Vera: A Short Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/
  3. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens: focus on their safety and effectiveness
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24198489/
  4. Role of Micronutrients in Skin Health and Function
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4428712/
  5. Sunburn
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534837/
  6. Miliaria
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537176/

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