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Treatment

If you have a sun allergy, your treatment must always begin with the strategies described in the Prevention section. These will reduce your sun exposure and prevent your symptoms from worsening. Other treatments depend on the specific type of sun allergy:

  • PMLE For mild symptoms, either apply cool compresses (such as a cool, damp washcloth) to the areas of itchy rash, or mist your skin with sprays of cool water. You can also try a nonprescription oral (by mouth) antihistamine such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine (both sold under several brand names) to relieve itching, or a cream containing cortisone. For more severe symptoms, your doctor may suggest a prescription-strength oral antihistamine or corticosteroid cream. If these remedies are not effective, your doctor may prescribe phototherapy, a treatment that produces hardening by gradually exposing your skin to increasing doses of ultraviolet light in your doctor's office. In many cases, five ultraviolet light exposures are given per week over a three-week period. If standard phototherapy fails, your doctor may try a combination of psoralen and ultraviolet light called PUVA; antimalarial drugs; or beta-carotene tablets.

  • Actinic prurigo (hereditary PMLE) Treatment options include prescription-strength corticosteroids, thalidomide (Thalomid), PUVA, antimalarial drugs and beta-carotene.

  • Photoallergic eruption The first goal of treatment is to identify and eliminate the medicine or skin care product that is triggering the allergic reaction. Skin symptoms usually can be treated with a corticosteroid cream.

  • Solar urticaria For mild hives, you can try a nonprescription oral antihistamine to relieve itching, or an anti-itch skin cream containing cortisone. For more severe hives, your doctor may suggest a prescription-strength antihistamine or corticosteroid cream. In extreme cases, your doctor may prescribe phototherapy, PUVA or antimalarial drugs.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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