When It’s More Than a Sunburn, Treating a Sun Rash
Summertime is here, and that means it’s sunburn season. Did you know that sometimes a sunburn can cause a rash?
Sunburns are typically painful, but what if you also get itchy after sun exposure? You may be experiencing a sun rash.
What is a sun rash? How is it different from a sunburn? How do you treat a sun rash? Let’s talk about it.
What Is a Sun Rash?
A sun rash is an allergic reaction to sun exposure. It can be hereditary, or it can be a symptom of sun poisoning or exposure to certain plants, like parsnip. Some medications can also cause a sun rash, including:
If you take any medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if they may cause a sun rash.
Symptoms of a Sun Rash
A sun rash is red, itchy, and may include small bumps that resemble hives. It may be painful as well as itchy.
What Is Sun Poisoning?
Sun poisoning is a severe sunburn that includes additional symptoms. Despite the name, there is no actual poison involved.
Severe sun poisoning may cause life-threatening complications. If you’re experiencing symptoms of sun poisoning, you should seek medical attention.
Symptoms of Sun Poisoning
Symptoms of sun poisoning may include:
- Skin redness
- Fever and chills
Risk Factors for Sun Rash or Sun Poisoning
Some people are at higher risk of developing a sun rash or sun poisoning. Risk factors include people who:
- Have fair skin
- Are taking antibiotics or oral contraceptives
- Live near the equator
- Live at a high altitude
- Have relatives who have had skin cancer
- Apply citrus oils to the skin before sun exposure
- Spend time at the beach or in the snow (sand and snow reflect sunlight)
- Use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), like chemical peels
What Is the Difference Between a Sun Rash and a Sunburn?
A typical sunburn does not itch. Sun rash itches and may be a symptom of sun poisoning, which is more dangerous than a sunburn.
What Causes a Sun Rash?
There are two different types of sun rash. One type is genetic and will affect a person any time they go outside.
Treating a Sun Rash or Sun Poisoning
The treatment for a sun rash may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms. Treatment options may include things like:
- Taking a cool shower
- Applying lotion or aloe vera gel to the sunburn or sun rash
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Steroid cream
- Topical antibiotics
- Intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration
- Oral steroids
- Pain medication
Preventing Sun Rash
Luckily, there are several things you can do help prevent getting a sun rash. Some suggestions for preventing a sun rash include:
- Avoid sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours
- Wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses
- Avoid touching lime juice, parsnips, or other triggers when you’re in the sun
READ MORE: How to Stay Healthy on Your Summer Vacation
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Mayo Clinic. Sun rash: Causes and prevention. Accessed online on 8/11/19 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/polymorphous-light-eruption/expert-answers/sun-rash/faq-20058163
Healthline. Sun Poisoning. Accessed online on 8/11/19 at https://www.healthline.com/health/sun-poisoning
WebMD. Sun Poisoning. Accessed online on 8/11/19 at https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/sun-poisoning#1