Marine engineer is forced to live like a vampire because he is ALLERGIC to sunlight and a trip to the beach involves a mask, wetsuit, gloves and boots


A ‘real life vampire’ is forced to wear a wetsuit, gloves, boots and a mask to the beach due to his rare and severe allergy to sunlight.

Sam Phelps, 27, a marine engineer, from Bristol, breaks out in a painful, swollen rash if he does not completely cover his skin on sunny days – even in winter.

His condition, known as erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), causes his skin to burn when exposed to UV light.

Whenever Mr Phelps goes out in the sunshine, any exposed skin swells and turns purple, while an excruciating burning pain sweeps through his body.

He said: ‘It feels like someone is holding a lighter to my skin, like it’s burning and on fire.

‘I’ve had issues before when my face is covered, with security guards thinking I’m some kind of criminal.’


‘I am like a vampire’   

Mr Phelps said: ‘I am like a vampire. My mates even tease me, calling me a vampire, because they know I find it hard to go out when it’s hot.

‘Calling me that makes it easier to understand my condition. Then people know simply why I can’t go out in the sun.’

He is forced to wear gloves, trousers, a long-sleeved top and a mask covering most of his face every time the sun comes out – even in winter.

He said: ‘It feels like someone is holding a lighter to my skin, like it’s burning and on fire.

‘I have to constantly try and keep it cool and take painkillers.’

For EPP sufferers, simple tasks such as driving to work or spending a day out with friends, require a careful study of the weather forecast, to enable them to plan ahead.

Yet despite the limitations caused by the condition, Mr Phelps is determined not to let it hold him back.

He said: ‘If someone thinks I look like an idiot, all wrapped up in the middle of summer, I don’t care.


Erythropoietic Protoporphyria (EPP) occurs when something goes wrong with the production of chemicals, known as porphyrins.

This causes the chemicals to build-up and lead to increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Symptoms start with tingling, itching or burning, as well as redness and burning.

These usually occur within minutes of being exposed to sunlight and may take days to resolve.

In rare cases, EPP sufferers can develop liver disease.

EPP is inherited, however, many families are unaware they carry a gene for the condition.

There is no cure.

Treatment largely focuses on avoiding sunlight.

Source: British Skin Foundation 



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