As its name suggests, a sun rash is a skin rash that is triggered by exposure to the sun. It appears as a red or blistered area that can develop immediately or break out several hours after the exposure. A sun rash can show up on any part of the body and is often itchy and uncomfortable. Although it usually doesn't last too long, people who are prone to sun rashes often break out repeatedly during the warmer seasons.
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According to Dr Per Grinsted, a sun rash is also known as solar dermatitis. It is a rash that breaks out on fair-skinned people who are sensitive to the sun. Although it can affect anyone who is pale, people with red hair and light skin are particularly susceptible. It occurs most commonly in women and children.
According to Aetna IntelHealth, a sun rash will typically clear up within three days if you don't go out in the sun during that period. It tends to recur, so once it is gone, it can come back at any time after more sun exposure. The most sensitive people may develop sun rashes throughout the spring and summer. However, Dr. Grinsted says this condition usually disappears once a person reaches his 40s or 50s.
The rash is the most common symptom of solar dermatitis. It normally breaks out on the face, neck, chest, arms and legs if those areas were exposed to the sun. However, Aetna InteliHealth says that the rash can be accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, nausea, chills and a fatigued or generally sick feeling, which may last for up to two hours before clearing up on their own.
Sun rashes can be prevented by using sunscreen whenever you are going to be exposed to solar rays. Dr. Grinsted recommends using a sunscreen with a strength of at least 15 SPF. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, covering as much skin as possible with long sleeves and pants and using an umbrella for shade can also help prevent skin rashes.
People who are not normally prone to getting sun rashes can become sensitive to the sun when they are on certain medications. Dr. Grinsted says this is called photoallergic dermatitis, and it can be caused by certain painkillers or drugs such as thiazide diuretics and tetracycline antibiotics. If you are on one of these medications, you may need to protect your skin from the sun. Certain soaps and perfumes can also increase the skin's sensitivity and lead to a sun rash.