The weather is getting colder and wetter #RainyLondon brown leaves litter the ground and school girls no longer wearing summer dresses – these can only mean one thing. Yesterday, the Google doodle celebrated 23rd September as the first day of Fall, which means we can officially wave goodbye to summer and say ‘Hello Autumn!’
I have to admit summer was a lot of fun: we get longer days to spend a little bit of time with family before bedtime. Also lots of parents took time off work to take their children on holidays (home or abroad). In these parts, we look forward to those 2-3 months when we get to bask in the golden rays of sun. Oh wait! I’m allergic to the sun 😭
According to the NHS, polymorphic light eruption is a fairly common skin rash triggered by exposure to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light. It is an itchy or burning rash which appears within hours, or up to 2 to 3 days after exposure to sunlight. It can last for up to 2 weeks, healing without scarring. This, is a phenomenon (which should not be confused with prickly heat rash) that has taken me a while to accept, as a black woman who was born in Nigeria and spent her first 17 years there.
The first time I experienced this reaction was in the summer of 2015 when we took a family trip to Orlando, Florida and visited Walt Disney World! We probably spent over 5 hours enjoying the parade, rides and sights at the Magic kingdom, but when we got home I had these tiny red rashes (itchy and stingy) all over my thighs. I applied some white powder to it as I assumed it was prickly heat, the itch seemed to cool after this. The next day we went to Typhoon lagoon for our day 2 – Disney World tour and the rashes hadn’t only cleared but I didn’t get a reaction at the water park (possibly cos I used sun protection). I thought to myself that this was definitely a fluke.
Then we returned home to London. We went to a bbq party that weekend, and yep you guessed right, I got the exact same rash. This time at the back of the knees cos I had on 3/4 pants. Now in comparison to Florida, the temperatures were much milder in London so I didn’t expect to get a rash or sunburnt after sun exposure. Yet I did and it was the same itchy and tingly feeling. Also this time I didn’t spend as long in the sun.
That was the beginning of my sun allergy troubles… I have since learned to cover up and apply sunscreen regularly during the summer months. Meanwhile, I didn’t know what to call this new skin irritation from sun exposure, until I met a Swiss colleague two years later who told me her sister got the same reaction from sun exposure; infact she has medication for it. “It’s cos we don’t get a lot of sun in these parts and your body is used to that so any exposure is an overload” she said. Apparently it’s quite prevalent in Switzerland.
And just as I experienced with Sunburn, this summer was especially bad. We were in the South of France, with temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees some days. I was diligent with sun protection: constantly applying sunscreen and donning a wide-brimmed hat. However I skipped this process one afternoon when we decided spur of the moment, to eat out for lunch. For this trip, we stayed with family friends who usually stayed indoors during the afternoon for obvious reasons!. According to our hosts, places in their village serve lunch between 12-1:30pm so we were a late however, we could drive up to the town of Minerve which was 10mins drive from Olonzac. So what I thought would be a “quick dash” to pick up lunch turned into a tourist hike up the beautiful, mountainous village of Minerve.
As expected I got an allergy rash on my thighs and upper back. I kept thinking to myself sh*t I’m going to suffer for this but there was nothing I could do. Then I got sunburn on my back and that worsened my situation – check out this post sunburn on dark skin for more on that experience.
So far, I’ve done some research on what to do to avoid both conditions – use sunscreen and cover up during sunny months including wearing wide hats and using an umbrella to shield me from the sun. However, this last episode got me thinking that I need to do more to improve this condition. It doesn’t exactly help that doctors here are not familiar with it.
I decided to share my story on the wide web to see if there are more me out there. How are you dealing with it? What’s working for you? Please share below and let’s learn together!
Until next time…