Photodermatitis, or sometimes called by the nonscientific term sun poisoning, is a reaction of the skin to UV rays of the sun, or photoallergy. It may be caused by a medication that makes the skin more sensitive, a skin product (e.g. sunscreen containing PABA, certain fragrances), autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or a vitamin deficiency. Doctors can determine the presence of the disorder through a photo test.
Many medications cause sun sensitivity, including:
- psoralens, coal tars, photo-active dyes (eosin, acridine orange)
- musk ambrette, methylcoumarin, lemon oil (may be present in fragrances)
- PABA (found in sunscreens)
- salicylanilide (found in industrial cleaners)
- Hexachlorophene (found in some Rx antibacterial soaps)
- Contact with sap from Giant Hogweed. Common Rue (Ruta graveolins) is another phototoxic plant commonly found in gardens.
- Tetracycline antibiotics
May result in swelling, a burning sensation, a red itchy rash sometimes resembling small blisters, and peeling of the skin. Nausea may also occur.
Prevention includes avoiding exposure to the sun:
- Stay inside during the brightest hours of the day, from noon to 3 p.m.
- Cover up: wear long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat whenever harsh exposure is probable. Remember that cloud cover does not provide protection from UV rays.
- Avoid chemicals that may trigger a reaction (do not, however, stop taking medication without consulting a doctor).
- Wear sunscreen at least factor 30 with a high UVA protection level.
- If the symptoms are severe, see a doctor.
Foods and treatment
The following foods or treatment may also help:
- Beta Carotene - found in carrots, not proven to be effective
- Omega-3 fatty acids - found in fish and flax seed
- Protein - will especially help individuals whose malnutrition may be a contributing factor.
- Vitamin B3, C, D, and E
- Green tea - antioxidants
- Aloe - external use
- AAD - The Sun and Your Skin, "Allergic Reactions" section