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My Experience with Photoallergic Reaction



Definition(1): This response is far less common and occurs when UV rays interact with the ingredients in medicines or other products applied directly to the skin. The body’s immune system recognizes changes caused by sun exposure as a foreign threat. The body produces antibodies and attacks, causing a reaction. A photo-allergic reaction can leave you with a rash, blisters, red bumps or even oozing lesions one to three days after application and exposure to the sun.



Let me begin at my Turks and Caicos Trip, 2018. The weather was sunny and hot, the trip was fantastic and all was well. Upon returning, a rash evolved on my face. A trip to the dermatologist diagnosed me with a form of Rosacea, worsened by the sun. This did not overly concern me as Celiacs are known to be prone to skin issues. Also, it is important to mention that I have been having sensitivities to certain ingredients, fragrances, foods and products of the environment for quite some time.


My skin has not been the same since that trip. I have since seen multiple dermatologists, all with the same diagnosis. I have been prescribed many creams, steroids and such. Now, it is important to mention that I have extreme multiple allergies. I have had extreme allergies since I am a child. My current Allergist, who I do trust and respect, has said that my allergy to dust is among the highest shes ever seen. In addition to Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease) I have also had Lyme disease and Epstein Barr Virus. These ailments do not stop me from thriving, or living my life healthily. However, this recent rash has been a real nuisance.


The rosacea rash comes and goes, along with an odd skin irritation on one of my eyes. On Memorial day weekend of 2019 I developed a severe and very painful rash on my legs only. Urgent care and 2 separate Dermatologists had no diagnosis. A biopsy was taken and was inconclusive. Bizarre right? This painful, mystery rash lasted 4 weeks. I could not even wear pants! Fast forward to the present, Memorial day weekend 2020.


Friday, I was in the sun and I used a sunscreen that I had used at the end of the 2019 season, a mineral based sunscreen. I try to be very careful with my products and I frequent the website trusted by my Naturopathic Doctor, www.ewg.org . This was not an excellent choice it was a better choice, rating a 4 on the EWG data base. Friday evening I noticed I was a bit dizzy, foggy and had developed a slight irritation on my chest area. Saturday there was a full blown rash on my chest, shoulders and arms where I had applied the sunscreen. I also noticed I was still a bit dizzy and foggy. Sunday I woke up at 6 AM with my face as shown in the above video.


Having much experience with allergies, food allergies and such, I knew it was not anaphylaxis, because I could breathe. But, to be honest, I did panic and I am very grateful my level headed husband was home. He was able to, first, ensure my safety, then, make fun of me until I calmed down. I did head to urgent care simply because this is not an ordinary occurrence for me.


The wonderful PA was thorough with me, and as I explained to her my sun-screening process, my past skin issues and medical history, she suggested I was having a photo-allergic reaction. The reaction was solely in the areas I applied sunscreen. It made sense. I was in agreement but to be honest, I was also annoyed. These skin issues have been affecting me for a while now, with no end in sight.



Being the researcher that I am, I have been pounding away at the keyboard searching for information on photo-allergenic reactions. There is not much. This definition spoke loudly to me as it has the phrase immune-mediated in it: "Photo-allergic reactions

are immune-mediated and take a longer time (24–72 hours) to appear after exposure to light. Photo-allergic reactions are eczematous and itchy and may spread to non-exposed areas of skin (2)."


Immune-mediated basically means there is no other explanation than an abnormal immune response. This makes sense because of my Autoimmune disease. But what else?



I kept searching. I am disappointed to say I have not found much on this subject. I have found some information, but nothing that sparks a light bulb or gives me the AHA moment. I will continue my search and I am sure I will dig up some useful facts. In the meantime, my gut tells me that allergies, autoimmune and toxins are working together to create an unwanted response. I wanted to post this with some magnificent findings but unfortunately, I have only the photos, my experience and little insight. As I continue my search regarding this, I will update here.


This experience was something I immediately knew I had to share, as I know I am not the only person who has or will experience this. It is my hope to reach people who share similar experiences, offer support, encouragement and help. I also welcome information, stories and facts from similar cases to add to my research.




(1) https://www.skincancer.org/risk-factors/photosensitivity/


(2) https://www.medsafe.govt.nz/profs/PUArticles/December2019/Photosensitivity-reactions.htm



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