It’s that time of year again. Summer is here and with it comes the heat and the sun. While summer can be all about pools, BBQs and the beach, it often brings a difficult set of problems for people with photosensitivity and others who have heat intolerance.
Photosensitive people are unable to tolerate the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and develop a host of uncomfortable symptoms such as skin redness, itching, burning, and swelling. Many medical conditions can cause photosensitivity, especially autoimmune disorders such as lupus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, and porphyria. Some medications also come with a warning to avoid direct sun exposure, including certain antibiotics such as tetracycline and doxycycline.
In addition to photosensitivity, heat and sun intolerance are symptoms of many chronic illnesses and disabilities. Spending just a few minutes in direct sun can cause them to overheat or develop sun poisoning or sun stroke. So if you have a chronic illness and it’s summertime, it can be critical to have proper sun protection so you can safely be outside in these extra hot months. Here are nine things that can help you beat the heat and cope with photosensitivity during the summer.
Sun Protection Tips & Tools
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When looking for a good sunscreen for photosensitivity, you want to make sure you find one that has good UVA and UVB sun protection factor (SPF). You also probably want something that isn’t super greasy and something that works for even the most sensitive of skin. Enter Australian Gold Botanical Natural Spray Sunscreen. Available in several SPFs ranging from 30 to 70, this sunscreen is free of oxybenzone, parabens, PABA, phthalate, petroleum, SLS (sulfate), dye and oils. Dermatologist and pediatrician approved, It is specially formulated for maximum protection against the sun while still being allergy friendly and eco-conscious as well. This is their sunscreen product, but they also have great sunblock options with zinc oxide in them. You can get tinted zinc oxide so you’re not stuck with that chalky white look, but zinc oxide offers the maximum protection of any sunblock product. Look for sunscreens with zinc oxide in them if you need serious protection due to photosensitivity. Whether there’s zinc oxide in it or it’s regular sunscreen, applying it every day before you go outside and every two hours after that, in addition to after getting out of the water, is critical to maintaining sun protection all day long. It’s not a one and done kind of thing, remember! Sunscreen has to be reapplied throughout the day.
Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Natural Spray SPF 50, 6 Ounce | Broad Spectrum | Water Resistant
lf you have photosensitivity, developing a face rash and/or blistering can be particularly painful, as well as damaging to your self-esteem. To prevent this, having sun protection for your face is essential. Your face is different than your body, and that means you are going to need a different formula of sunscreen for your face. This dermatologist approved, broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) SPF 46 protection sunscreen with zinc oxide is formulated for sensitive skin and those of us who are acne-prone. It calms and protects sensitive skin, and its oil-free formula won’t leave you feeling greasy. The zinc oxide in it will add in extra-strength protection from the sun and help keep you looking ageless, darling. It’s also fragrance free, which is great for us sensitive folks.
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-Free, Dermatologist-Recommended Mineral-Based Zinc Oxide Formula, 1.7 oz
Cooling towels can be a lifesaver for photosensitive people, as well as those who have difficulty with temperature regulation due to a spinal cord injury or other neurological disability such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. If regulating your body temperature is an issue for you, the cooling towels can help lower your temperature to a more comfortable level on a summer day. A lot of autoimmune disorders involve photosensitivity and temperature regulation issues and a cooling towel will definitely go a long way in helping you beat the heat. If you’ve never used a cooling towel, you are missing out. Cooling towels are life in the hot summer months. Soak your cooling towel in water and you’ll be ready to go for hours. If you are lounging about with a cooler nearby, rotate your cooling towels from the cooler to keep them nice and cold. Even in the middle of the Arizona desert on a hot day, these cooling towels passed their quality control tests with flying colors!
4 Pack Cooling Towel (40"x12") Soft Breathable Chilly Microfiber Towel
When the air is stagnant and thick with humidity, a breeze is a blessing. These small portable fans can rotate 360 degrees and comes with cool flexible legs that allow you to attach it to pretty much anything. It’s lightweight and battery powered, perfect for on the go. For someone with photosensitivity sitting in the shade on a hot day, a little bit of air can go a long way. If you have limited hand mobility or function, this fan is great since you don’t have to squeeze it like some fans to activate it, and the air it generates should help you keep a little cooler!
Portable Handheld Fan, 2600mAh Battery Powered Personal Desk Air Circulator Fan with Flexible Tripod, Ultra Quiet 4 Speed 360° Rotatable USB Fan
Fan and Mister
The fan above is great for being out and about, but when you are hanging out and have a table, this mister/fan combo is a great option to help you beat the heat. With three different speeds, you can set this fan at your personal comfort level. It’s also portable and rechargeable, with up to eight hours of battery life according to the manufacturer. The mister and fan in conjunction can help keep you cooler than the fan alone. For those of us who are sensitive to the sun or have dysautonomia, overheating can be a dangerous thing. Summer can be difficult on a lot of chronic illnesses because of the extreme heat, so staying protected and cool is of the upmost importance not only for those of us who are photosensitive or even those of us who have a sun allergy, but really for everyone! The sun and heat can be incredibly dangerous even for those without medical conditions, and having a myriad of items to help protect you from the sun and stay cool can keep everyone safe this summer.
SPF Long Sleeved Shirt/Hoodie with Face Covering
Some people can actually be allergic to the sun and any kind of exposure can be harmful. Some people are photosensitive because of autoimmune conditions or medication. Some people are at higher risk for skin cancers or rashes if they are exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays. Whatever your reason, these SPF hoodies are great for helping protect form the sun’s powerful rays. Rated at over 50 UPF, sun protection clothing can add an extra layer on top of a good sunscreen, helping those of us who are extremely sensitive to the sun. The long sleeves protect your whole arms and the hoodie allows for some protection for your face and head from the sun.
BALEAF Women's Hiking Long Sleeve Shirts with Face Cover Neck Gaiter UPF 50+ Lightweight Quick Dry SPF
Everyday Long Sleeved SPF Shirt
The hoodie is a great option for more coverage, but for an everyday SPF shirt, we love these Coolibar UPF tees. Rated at UPF 50+, these long sleeve t-shirts still cover your whole arms, and with their super soft, lightweight, and breathable fabric, they make a great addition to your wardrobe. The sun has powerful and often dangerous rays, and sun exposure can even turn deadly if someone overheats. Keeping your skin protected can help lower skin cancer risk too, so there’s an added bonus! You always want to look for sun protection clothing that is rated UPF 50 or higher to give you adequate protection from the sun, according to dermatologists. Keep your skin safe and protected this summer, and see a dermatologist if you have any suspicious spots or rashes.
Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Morada Everyday Long Sleeve T-Shirt
Wide Brimmed Hat
You can have so much fun with hats! Tons of hats are available with UPF 50+ ratings to match every outfit, occasion and style. A wide brimmed hat is a cute summer accessory to accompany any ensemble, and besides being cute, your face will be protected from the sun, which is the really important part! If this hat isn’t your style, there’s so many more to choose from, but the important thing is getting a hat, like the shirts, that’s rated at UPF 50+ or above and wide brimmed enough to cover your whole face (and possibly some of your chest depending on other factors). While you are at it, stock up on other styles so you can have one for every outfit, and an extra one for Sundays!
Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Perla Packable Wide Brim Sun Protection Hat
If it’s really, really hot or you need the highest level of cooling power, a cooling vest is the way to go. Filled with ice packs and worn underneath clothing, a cooling vest will definitely help you stay cool. This particular cooling vest is set to keep at a cool 64 degrees for up to two hours, and is adjustable for different body types. For our environmentally conscious friends, this cooling vest has 100% biodegradable phase change cooling material. It comes with a hefty price tag, but if you are out in serious heat for an extended amount of time, this cooling vest might be a must-have for you this summer to help regulate body temperature and if you are photosensitive or have a sun allergy.
Cooling Vest with 4 Ice Packs, Lightweight, Quick Recharge Cooling, Ergodyne Chill Its 6260
Summer is supposed to be fun, and pools, the beach and BBQs fill everyone’s minds. But for those of us with sun allergies, autoimmune conditions, lupus, dysautonomia or other chronic medical conditions and disabilities that leave us temperature and sun sensitive, summer can be a dangerous time. Overheating, sun stroke, heat exhaustion, sun burns… the list goes on. We know the sun is powerful. We know it’s dangerous. And unfortunately, it is more dangerous for some of us than others. But if you have the right equipment and tools in your toolbox to help mitigate the heat and the sun’s harmful rays, you can still enjoy summer and the beautiful days that come with it. Of course, follow orders from your doctor as far as sun and heat exposure go for you personally, but hopefully these items can help you relish in those summer days and relax in those summer nights!
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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds.
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