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Allergies

Internal hives from sunburn?

05/16/2007

Question:

Last year I got a fairly bad sunburn on my back. A few days later,the skin on my back began itching, which I at first assumed was a sign that my skin was healing. The itchiness increased, to the point that I got into the shower, thinking I was having contact dermititis from something. A few minutes later, the itchiness gave way to incredibly intense shocks of pain all over the sunburned area, that I can only try to describe as quick jolts , like an electrical shock. It was the most discomfort I have ever been in. The skin on my back was completely unblemished, there were no visible signs of hives or irritation, but I was literally about to tear my skin off. My mom, who is a nurse, thought I might be having some form of `internal hives`, so I took a few Benadryl and, sure enough, a half hour later, the pain/itchiness was substantially better.

Is it possible to get `internal hives` from a sunburn? What would cause this? Will this happen again if I happened to get another sunburn on my back?

Answer:

Sunburns can cause itching especially when pealing begins.  It is also possible to get "photodermatitis" which is associated with a rash and itching.  Finally, there is a condition called "solar" urticaria or "heat-induced" urticaria (hives) associated with itching.  A more detailed history would have to be obtained to definitively determine what occurred since, as you can see, there are multiple possibilities.

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Response by:

Jonathan   Bernstein, MD Jonathan Bernstein, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati