I was about 12 watching She's The Man and thinking "haha no one's really allergic to the sun, imagine that". Ironically about two years later that's exactly what I was. I was suffering from PLE: polymorphic light eruption. Yes, I was a real life "Sebastian Hastings".
I've been fortunate enough to have gone on many holidays around the world, 90% of them including hot sunny weather. It wasn't until I was 14 that the allergy developed. Half way through a holiday, I started to develop "heat rash" and no one thought anymore of it, it'll clear up by the time we get home.
Five months later we were away again, a day in and the "heat rash" developed again. It grew continually worse, my whole body was covered in a red rash, that felt like fire and looked like I was diseased. Nothing could stop it. I tried EVERYTHING: sitting out of the sun, sitting in an air conditioned room, taking cold showers, aloe vera and even sitting on my sun bed in talcum powder (mortifying). I couldn't understand why this was affecting me now. It was honestly less painful to prod myself with a fork, which I know, not the most medical way to approach things but being on a tiny island I was doing anything to keep it my sanity.
This carried on for the next five years. Every diagnosis was "heat rash" and as I have the skin tone of a ghost it seemed reasonable. I researched ways to manage or prevent it and tried a million different concoctions over the five years but everytime it came back with a vengeance. It became so bad that I became a recluse in my hotel rooms, not being able to enjoy whatever country I was in. I was running out of ideas and just accepted the fact I couldn't go in the sun anymore. Feeling defeated and exhausted, the only option left was to be referred to a dermatologist. Top tip: don't research medical problems online, they'll either tell you your dying or convince you you're crazyyyyy.
"It looks like you have have PLE". No idea what it stood for or what it meant but I was honestly just relieved that there was a real diagnosis. I was put on a course of phototherapy treatment for 10 weeks a year. It wasn't certain that this would work but if I'd given sitting in talcum powder a try, I was definitely going to try this. The aim is to desensitise my skin to the light and build up my body's tolerance to heat and sunlight - mainly caused by humidity or very intense sunlight, I have no problems day to day living in London mainly because the sun doesn't actually exist here and is probably the reason I have PLE, so thank you British weather 👏🏼
There is no way of telling whether the treatment has worked apart from going on holiday and seeing what happens. Naturally I threw my skin in at the deep end and booked Dubai in July, my theory being if it couldsurvive the 40 degree heat then I was cured. IT WORKED. I spent the whole time outside, not locked in my room and even managed to sit in the sun and I was back to being 'normal' again 🙌🏼. This doesn't mean it can't and hasn't come back, every year I repeat the treatment and bring steroids when I'm away incase it reappears but I'm learning to manage it and still able to enjoy my holidays.
I want to say I wish I had some pictures to share but I don't think it's something anyone would want to see! If you have any questions or want any advice if you feel like you're suffering from the same problem, don't hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org