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Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Internal hives from sunburn?
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?
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.
Jonathan Bernstein, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati