Tell us who you are and where you’re from.
I am Jacob Varghese. I am the CEO of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and I live in Melbourne.
Describe your lifestyle.
When I am not in lockdown, I am an office worker. I travel quite a bit for work, but mostly visiting other offices. I am the father of three school-age girls. On the weekends (when we are not in lockdown) we like to go for bushwalks, bike-rides and picnics. We love family holidays in the mountains or near the water.
How did you discover your skin health issue (sun urticaria)?
When I was 25, I visited Vietnam for a holiday. With lots of exposure to sun, I started to develop very itchy rashes. This then persisted when I came home after sun exposure. When I came home, I saw a doctor who told me about sun urticaria, and it has been a feature of my life ever since.
How does this skin issue affect your everyday life?
I am cautious about spending too much time in direct sun. I try to sit in the shade, wear a hat and so on. As long as I am sun smart, it doesn’t affect my everyday life that often. It can be irritating when I am driving on a sunny day - the sun gets on my hands before I realise and then I can end up with extremely itchy hands while trying to focus on driving.
If you played a round of golf on a hot summer’s day, would you be affected?
Funnily enough, summer is not the worst of it. I tend to be most affected in spring. But yes, if played a round of golf in shorts with no hat, it would be a nightmare.
Are there certain areas more affected than others?
I get especially bad reactions in places that don’t see a lot of sun. So, wearing shorts in spring, I will get badly affected on my calves. If I wear sandals or wade in shallow water, I get it on the tops of my feet. If my face is in direct sunlight, I will get it on my cheeks and forehead. The back of my neck is also vulnerable.
What happens as a result of a flare up?
My skin gets very red, very warm to touch and it is incredibly itchy - you cannot concentrate on anything else until the itch has died down. It lasts only about 30 - 60 minutes after I have gotten out of the sun. It is more annoying than debilitating.
Do you know how it came about?
I have no idea to be honest. No one in my family has the same issue.
Do you regularly visit a dermatologist?
No. I have seen a dermatologist once, who diagnosed sun urticaria and advised me to be sun smart and take over-the-counter antihistamine if I get a flare up.
What is your attitude to sun protection?
I try hard to make sure that affected areas don’t get direct sunlight on them, which is mostly a matter of shade and clothing. I have found that sunscreen doesn’t necessarily prevent a flare up. So, I try to make sure I am sitting in the shade when eating outdoors and to wear sensible clothes.
Have you heard of UPF clothing; do you know what it means?
I have now! It means clothing designed to block out ultraviolet light.
Do you know the difference between wearing a Solbari shirt compared to a regular shirt?
I guess Solbari clothing provides more protection from the UV light that causes sun urticaria. That is great because a lot of summery clothes will let the sun through. Having an itchy back is a true misery!