These notes provide general advice, which will help reduce your exposure to the sun and aggravation of your photosensitive skin rash.
What is photosensitivity?
It is any condition in which the skin is over-sensitive to sunlight. The ultraviolet rays are mainly responsible, and not the heat rays of the sun.
Do I need to avoid sunlight completely?
No, but you may need to limit your exposure outdoors.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest from April to September between 11am and 3pm, it is a good idea to stay indoors or in the shade during this period. Too much sun exposure of your skin can occur on cloudy days as well as clear days, although heavy, overcast skies do offer some protection.
It is the ultraviolet rays, and not the heat rays, of the sun, which are harmful so a cool, windy day will not necessarily prevent your rash from getting worse.
What type of clothing should I wear?
Some types of material will let through enough ultraviolet rays to irritate your skin. The best fabrics are those, which are tightly woven. A good way to check this is to hold the fabric up to the light – if it casts a dense shadow it will protect your skin.
The colour of the fabric is not so important.
Should I wear a hat?
Many photosensitive patients have rashes on their face and neck and if you are one of these it may be a good idea to wear a hat. All hats will protect the top of the head but to achieve good protection to the face, the hat should have a wide brim of at least three inches.
Smaller brimmed hats won’t provide worthwhile protection to your cheeks, nose and back of neck.
How should I apply sunscreens?
Sunscreens applied too thinly or rubbed vigorously into the skin will not provide adequate protection. To remain effective the sunscreen should be re-applied every 3 to 4 hours. Although sunscreens are often helpful it is important to realise that sometimes even total sunblocks may not provide complete protection.
When choosing a sunscreen look for one with both high UVB protection (at least factor 30) and UVA protection (usually a star rating on the back of the bottle, ‘*****’ is best).
Do I need to protect my skin when I’m behind window glass?
Most of the sun’s ultraviolet rays will penetrate widow glass. This can be a particular problem if you are in a car on a sunny day or sitting in a conservatory when you should take the same precautions as if you were outside.
At home or at work it is wise to sit away from windows and direct sunlight – but you certainly don’t need to pull the curtains and sit in the dark!
What about artificial lighting?
The ultraviolet levels from home, office and factory lighting is very low from both tungsten (light bulb) and fluorescent (strip light) lamps and so you don’t need to take special precautions against any indoors lighting.
Is it safe to watch television?
Yes, you can watch television for as long as you wish without harming your skin.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.