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Sunburn and Other Sun Reactions of the Skin

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Polymorphous Light Eruption

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) is a condition in which skin rashes can develop after fairly limited sun exposure. PMLE usually affects females between the ages of 20 and 40. The condition also can affect children and less commonly, men. 

Symptoms of PMLE

The term 'polymorphic' refers to the fact that the rash can take many forms. A common kind of PMLE resembles groups of pink or red raised spots on the arms. Other areas, including the legs and chest, also may be affected. Sometimes the rash has blisters and larger dry, red spots. The rash is accompanied by a burning or itching that can last for several days.

PMLE Treatments

In severe cases, a doctor may recommend oral steroids to treat PMLE. Hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat skin conditions, sometimes is recommended.

Skin Care Tips

To protect your skin from the sun, consider these tips:

  • Avoid the sun during peak hours (usually 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
  • Dress sensibly. The tighter the weave and darker the colors of the fabric, the more sun protection it will offer. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Avoid deliberate sunbathing, including tanning beds.
  • Use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF even on cloudy days. Sunscreens should be applied about 20 minutes before going outdoors. Even water-resistant sunscreens should be reapplied about every two hours, after swimming, or after strenuous activity.

Choosing a Sunscreen

Different sunscreens are appropriate for different people. For children under 6 months old, the best option is to keep them out of the sun, if possible. If sun exposure is unavoidable, put a little bit of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on small areas such as the cheeks and back of the hands, after testing to see if the baby is sensitive by first trying a small amount on the baby’s wrist.

People with dark skin would benefit from sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreens with SPF numbers higher than 30 may benefit people who want to minimize their exposure to the sun, especially people who are fair-skinned.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD on July 08, 2012
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