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, or sensitivity to sunlight, is a skin reaction to sunlight. It may be caused by sunlight alone or by sunlight and chemicals. These chemicals are found in perfume, makeup, creams, lotions, food, or medicines.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Itchy, red rash on skin that is exposed to the sun
  • Hives
  • Blisters

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The rash spreads and covers large parts of your body.
  • The rash starts to turn into blisters.
  • Your rash does not get better, or it gets worse, even after treatment.
  • You have a rash on your cheeks and nose that looks like a butterfly.
  • Your skin bruises easily.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a photosensitivity

may include any of the following:

  • Steroids may help decrease itching and inflammation. This medicine may be a cream, shot, or pill.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Antihistamines may help decrease itching.
  • Phototherapy is a treatment where you skin is slowly exposed to doses of ultraviolet light. This may help your skin adjust to the sunlight.

Manage your symptoms:

Apply a cool, damp cloth to your rash area or mist the area with cool sprays of water. Protect your skin from the sun with any of following:

  • Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen that is at least SPF 30, even on cloudy or cool days. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
  • Avoid direct sunlight between 10am and 3pm. Instead, sit in the shade.
  • Do not use tanning beds.
  • Wear long sleeves, pants, or long skirts when you are in the sun.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim all the way around to shade your face, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return often for skin cancer checks. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Photosensitivity (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.