Sun allergies prohibit my enjoyment of summer


Why is it that I always seem to “forget” the real reason I don’t like summer?  My favourite season has always been fall, followed by spring.  Though I don’t like extremes of weather, I always preferred winter to summer.  Snow is fun, and of course, there are the holidays.  But, beyond that, I always find it easier to dress in lots of layers, than to remove down to your birthday suit.  After all, once you are down to that, you have no further to go, unless you have air conditioning.

I hate it when it is hot.  I always associate it with being sweaty, sleepy, and just plain lethargic.  I have never understood the mentality of lying out in the sun until you are baking.  Of course, when it is so hot, there’s little you can do except lie down.  But I’d prefer to do it in the shade.

But it’s not the frustrations I feel when the temperature rises that make me wish I could rush through summer.  I love good weather and summer is ripe with it.  As long as it is not too hot.  Over the last two decades (after this long a time, how can I always forget?) I have developed a “sun allergy”.  There’s some medical terminology that a dermatologist gave me once, but I forget what it is.  I get a rash, even after brief (15 minutes) exposure in the sun.  It does not seem to affect me in the winter, which perhaps explains why I keep forgetting.  But it makes me also think that it’s not just the sun, but the heat.  My theory behind this sun allergy is that the sun is more direct in the summer.  It’s rays are more powerful, more intense, more hot.  Even on cloud-filled hot days, I can develop the rash.  Conversely, I have had, on occasion, rashes in the spring when we’ve had sunny but cooler, even cold and breezy, days.  Unlike heat rash, which is found on sweaty areas of the body in hot weather, the sun rash mostly occurs on exposed areas.  For example, you can see the tan lines on my feet from the sandals I wear, and in those areas, there is not a single rash.  The most affected areas, obviously, are the hands and feet, because they are the least protected (or most exposed) in the summer.  But, there was a time, when many joint areas were affected as well, regardless of protection, such as the shoulders and hips.  It made suspect other problems, but in recent years, it has concentrated only on exposed areas.

One year, I was in Mexico and was so badly affected, I could only come out in the evenings.  Even that wasn’t good enough.  I was practically covered in a rash and the persistent heat did not help, even though I stayed indoors.  The evening sun, though deemed safe for melanoma risk, exacerbated the rash in exposed areas.

The rash, like hives, poison ivy and heat rash, is extremely itchy.  Unless someone has experienced any of these, they cannot understand how maddening it can be.  It makes you curse the cause of the condition.  I cannot afford to buy expensive steroid creams to help with the rash and itch, and have resorted to over-the-counter itch creams and allergy pills.  They are not always helpful, but I have to give them a try sometimes.  Another trick I’ve learned is to cool down the heat of the itch with ice or cold water.

I envy those who can tolerate the heat.  It’s difficult to go around in long sleeves and pants all the time.  So, I either have to choose to sweat or itch.  Not an easy choice sometimes.  And sun screens do not help, though I do use them to protect my skin.  Even though they make me feel sticky.  Every summer, I am reminded of my condition, when a brief encounter turns prickly, as it has in the last few days.  And we’re not even officially in summer.

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