Could you be allergic to the sun?

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  • We could be in for another hot weekend, but that could be bad news for one in six Britons who are allergic to the sun.

    It may be raining now, but we are due for another hot spell this weekend that could be bad news for some of us.

    Contrary to a gorgeous glow, research suggests that as many as one in six Britons are allergic to the sun, suffering from actinic prurigo (photosensitive eczema) that results in a nasty nettle-like rash.

    Dr Mike Arden-Jones, consultant dermatologist at Southampton University NHS Trusts and the Spire Southampton Hospital says: ‘In all these conditions, the sun causes proteins and molecules within the skin to change slightly.

    ‘In some people, the body sees them as foreign, so the immune system sends chemicals to the area that result in an incredibly itchy rash.’

    Olympic yachtsman Ben Ainslie, who has suffered with actinic prurigo since the age of three, brought the allergy to our attention a few months ago. Ben’s allergy not only causes him to break out in unbearably itchy red spots, but also leaves him feeling drained and irritable.

    Reports suggest that those with family history of allergic conditions such as hayfever or skin complaints like eczema have an increased risk of sun-related allergies.

    And, unfortunately for us, the allergy is slightly more common in women, but can affect all skin types.

    But help is at hand. Dr. Arden-Jones explains: ‘The first line of treatment is steroid creams to reduce inflammation. If these don’t work, then the other treatmentoption is-surprisingly-light treatment’.

    Exposing patients to brief doses of light triggers the production of melatonin in the skin, which subsequently works as the body’s natural sunscreen to help block out the sun, while resulting in a tan.

    Although there is no cure, Dr. Arden-Jones claims that light exposure treatment is enough to reduce or prevent actinic prurigo. So sunbathing is not a forbidden pleasure just yet.


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