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Woman 'allergic to the sun' says heatwave causes severe agonising blisters

A woman who says she is allergic to the sun says the latest stretch of hot weather has left her crying out in pain.

Susan Heaword, 29, was diagnosed with Polymorphic Light Eruption, which causes increased sensitive to sunlight 12 years ago just after she gave birth to her first child.

Susan, from Telford, Shropshire, says she was devastated to see this week’s weather forecast as just putting out the bins, hanging the washing or doing the school run can leave her with agonising blisters all over her body.

‘It really, genuinely hurts,’ says Susan. ‘If someone brushes against me, it can make me cry. I have seven cold showers a day because of the pain.

‘It feels like a spider crawling across my skin, then it tickles, then it’s like a million hot needles are hitting my skin.

‘They get so bad that the blisters pop and turn into one big red patch. I was devastated when I saw this month’s weather forecast.

‘I feel bad for my children because I can’t enjoy the weather with them. I can’t even sit next to the window because the sun will get me.’

Holidays abroad are basically a no-go for Susan. She hasn’t been away since she was diagnosed.

Even at home, she has to sit indoors and away from the windows when her children Amelia, Mason and Isobel are playing in the garden.

The stay-at-home mum wears factor 50 SPF every day the year – regardless of the weather – and takes antihistamines to help control the symptoms.

But it heatwaves, the symptoms can become unbearable.

‘I have to wear full length tops and trousers in hot weather and I wear my summer clothes in the winter just because I want to wear something summery,’ she says.

‘I don’t leave the house when it’s hot apart from to do the school run and I have to wear a jacket so this week I’ve been getting some funny looks.’

When Susan was diagnosed 12 years ago, doctors advised her to avoid the sun as much as possible.

‘I went to the doctors because I kept coming out in painful hives,’ she explains.

‘They just said to avoid sunlight, but that means my children suffer because if I can’t have a summer, they can’t have a summer.

‘They want to be in the garden in the swimming pool and I can’t play with them. It’s devastating.’

What is Polymorphic light eruption?

Polymorphic light eruption is a fairly common skin rash triggered by exposure to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light.

Symptoms:

An itchy or burning rash appears within hours, or up to 2 to 3 days after exposure to sunlight.

It lasts for up to 2 weeks, healing without scarring.

The rash usually appears on the parts of the skin exposed to sunlight, typically the head, neck, chest and arms.

The face is not always affected.

  • Most people get crops of 2mm to 5mm pink or red raised spots
  • Some people get blisters that turn into larger, dry, red patches – it looks a bit like eczema
  • Less commonly, the skin patches look like targets or bull’s eyes (it looks a bit like erythema multiforme)

Polymorphic light eruption is thought to be caused by UV light altering a substance in the skin, which the immune system reacts to, resulting in the skin becoming inflamed.

Find out more about this condition on the NHS website. Or speak to your GP if you have concerns about your health.

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