NOT Cellulitis On My Forehead

One great thing about blogging is that I can easily scan through old posts and remember what I was doing this time last year. Because I wrote a certain post, I’m able to remember more about that experience than I would have without the post. This proved helpful this week.

When I posted about my freak swollen forehead last May, partly it was for me, partly it was hoping there was someone else out there who’d experienced the same thing. Well, that post has been and continues to be my most viewed post. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I documented it (and still have the photos on my phone).

(See that post, my all time best-seller, here) (And the follow-up post)

Last summer, while visiting Alex in Florida, I found a very large swelling on my forehead one of the first days of my trip. As the swelling got bigger, I got scared and we went to the best rated ER in Fort Myers, Florida. After many hours spent waiting, the doctors assigned me a ‘catch all’ diagnosis (in my opinion) of Cellulitis, gave me a shot of antibiotics and showed us the door.

After doing certified Google research and reading the Cellulitis information sheet the hospital gave us, I was certain that I had not experienced Cellulitis. Besides having a large swelling, I did not have any of the other symptoms and none of the possible causes fit me.

Assuming that would be the first and last time I’d ever deal with a freak forehead swelling, I decided not to worry too much about a misdiagnosis of Cellulitis. The swelling went down, I felt fine – I didn’t care too much.

Enter Saturday night, post-bachelorette party.

After we’d gotten home for the night, I’d felt some raised skin at my hair line and called my sister in to feel it. ‘This is the same damn thing that happened last year!’ I told her. I chugged some water and hit the sack, hoping the swelling would stay put.

No such luck.

I woke up Sunday morning to find just about 1/2 of my forehead swollen. Again. The same damn thing that happened in Florida. This time, I knew for a fact it was NOT Cellulitis.

I debated Urgent Care vs. ER – which would be quicker so I could meet my brother who also happened to be in town visiting? – and decided on ER. We took Alex to Rose Hospital in Denver earlier in the year and had a fantastic experience, as far as ER visits go. Clean, efficient, high-quality care. If I was going to the hospital, I was going to Rose.

Photo at Rose Medical Center ER

[Chronological photos at bottom of the post]

Again, we received impeccable care at the Rose ER. I was checked in immediately and just as soon as I’d sat down to wait to be called, I was called and placed in a room. Minutes later, I was seen by a doctor (who actually LISTENED to me!), was given a prescription and was sent on my way. Just in time for brunch with my brother.

While the ER doctor couldn’t tell me exactly what was going on in my forehead or why this happened again, we identified 1 common theme: I’d been out in the sun for a few hours the day before each incident (paddleboarding in Florida, Fitness on the Rocks last weekend). Each time I’d put on sunscreen (different kinds, not an allergic reaction) but probably not enough.

The doctor surmised that this was a stress response to being in the sun for multiple hours, exercising, not having enough sunscreen, etc. It’s not an infection (Cellulitis) because my forehead did not hurt, was not tender and was not warm/hot like a sunburn in either instance. Likely not an allergic reaction because there was nothing that I’d done exactly the same both times this happened but that was different than any other day in my life or day in the sun. It basically felt like my forehead had popped out an inch. Like I’d been hit by a strong piece of wood.

The doctor also told me that because this was not an infection, antibiotics wouldn’t do anything to calm it. Instead he issued me a topical steroid cream to use to help the swelling go down.

On Sunday afternoon, I got a strong headache – a perfect storm of dehydration from Saturday night, heat from eating brunch outside and swelling in my face. I came home, took 2 ibuprofen, chugged water and slept with an ice pack on my forehead. And frankly, spent the beginning of the week doing only that.

Sunday overnight, the swelling moved from my forehead down to my eyebrows/eyes/nose region. For Monday night and Tuesday, I had no bridge of my nose due to swelling. I generally felt bad and tired – as these photos show. I look and felt rough.

But each day, the swelling reduced slightly and I’ve been feeling a tiny bit better. I even ventured out to a boxing class last night.

Today, I feel 100% again – I’m not tired, my eyes and head do not hurt and, most importantly, I don’t look like a Klingon anymore.

Because I’m not entirely sure what the culprit of this completely freakish forehead swelling is, I don’t know exactly what to avoid. I’m guessing extreme exposure to the sun, for one. I am pretty sure it has something to do with the sun and sunburns. (Can one be allergic to sunburns??) But outside of that, I’m at a loss to how to keep this from happening. As much as I love the side-eyed stares when I’m out, I’d prefer it not to be because I have a forehead twice the size of a Conehead.

So why am I posting these really unflattering photos of my forehead? Because so many people have found and commented on my initial Cellulitis post that I want to set the story straight. My forehead issue is NOT Cellulitis. If you Google ‘Cellulitis Photos’ (which I do not recommend unless you have a very strong stomach), my forehead does not even closely resemble a Cellulitis infection. So if you’ve found my post by searching ‘cellulitis + forehead’, ‘forehead + infection’, ‘swollen forehead’, etc (and many, many of you are!), please know that this is NOT cellulitis.

And if you’ve found my blog or post because you’re experincing a similar ailment, I recommend seeing your healthcare professional. I am not a doctor or have the any medical knowledge so nothing in my post should be taken as medical advice or fact. Only your doctor can access and diagnose you.


DAY 1: This is Sunday morning when I woke up. My forehead is 1/2 swollen.

DAY 1: Taken at the ER. Swelling has expanded slightly in the middle of my forehead. Does not hurt, is not tender. It feels hard, like my forehead is just popped out.

DAY 1: Sunday evening. Forehead is totally swollen. My head hurt and I generally felt sick Sunday – Wednesday morning. Fun story – I woke up at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning to find ONE SMALL SPOT of my forehead not swollen. Like, dented in. It was hideous. Fortunately, it went away by 7 a.m. when I woke up.

DAY 2: Still swollen. Feeling like magoo BIG TIME. Swelling has moved south from my forehead to more at my eyebrows/eye area. My eyes feel really tired Day 2 and 3, I’m sure due to swelling. All I can do is sleep – I sleep late in the morning, take a nap after I get home from work and go to bed early.

DAY 3: I could not take a photo showing how swollen the bridge of my nose was. Still feeling terrible but swelling is slowly going down. More sleeping. Also, allergies start kicking in. I can’t stop sneezing and hacking up crap. Thanks, body.

DAY 4: I woke up feeling a million times better. Swelling is almost entirely gone. I don’t feel like I need to sleep 78 hours. I felt well enough to try a short run and boxing class. Both felt good, felt great after, too. Like a normal person and not a zombie.

DAY 5: I’m ME again! Swelling is 100% gone, I feel great. Not tired, not sleepy, not anything but normal lgsmash. I could even put myself together today (ie – find clothes that matched and fit, put make up on, brush my hair) for the first time this week.

Just like last year, it took about 5 days for the swelling to dissipate.


NOT Cellulitis On My Forehead — 107 Comments

    • Thank u for ur wonderful post! I like u are very fair skinned and live in Sydney, Oz I was out in the sunshine at the weekend and then two days later my forehead aswell as all the side of my face popped out an inch! I am in total shock as I have never seen myself react this way. I was googling to see if this had happened to anyone else when I came across your post! Thank u! U have made me feel much better! I am feeling very self conscious and would not even dare to send a friend a picture!

  1. This is so bizarre – i can’t believe they can’t pinpoint what it is. At least the sun exposure thing is a good start! I’m glad you’re feeling better though!

  2. holy cow that is NUTS. I have such a tiny forehead I’d probably never notice. I’m glad they seemed to have figured out what the deal was because this is scary.

  3. I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me several times since March. Doctor doesn’t know what it is….I am very tan, never burn, and almost always wear a visor while in the sun. So glad to find out that I’m not the only forehead freak(as my kids call me). Maybe someday we will find out what is causing this.

    • That is crazy! It is VERY refreshing to know I’m not the only ‘forehead’ freak out there! I am going to my primary care doctor soon and plan to ask about this issue – I will let you know what I find out!

      • I had the exact same thing happen after a day snow skiing on a very sunny day. My husband called me a Klingon and the swelling covered my forehead and went down the bridge of my nose blocking my vision. The Dr called it Sun Poisoning.

    • Holy smokes, I’m sitting on my sunder in Barbados freaking out right now deciding if I want to waste money on a Dr. I am olive skinned and never use to be sensitive to the sun. I’m mid 30’s an had a baby a little over a year ago. My skin hormones or something has hanged. I got a sunburn a few days ago and I usually don’t burn. I have edema in my forehead right now and it’s totally freaking me out. Thinking I will take a Benadryl and some water pills and hope that helps.

    • This is only the second time it’s happened – I didn’t notice a substantial difference with the steroid cream and I stopped appying it. The ibuprfen helped, though! I am NOW taking an anti-histamine because my allergies are outta control right now. I blame forehead swelling.

      • Hey Igsmash,

        I am currently going through this also. I can tell you for certain it is exposure to direct sunlight. I was outside playing ball all weekend without sunscreen and without a hat! (MY BAD!) My forehead swelled to the size of a soft ball on Monday night and went back to normal on Tuesday morning. Now heading into Tuesday afternoon, my forehead has swelled to the size of a golf ball right above the bridge of my nose. Slight pain from the killer sunburn, and slight headache but my forehead doesn’t feel like a giant blister or anything, just like my normal, yet swollen head.

        Ibuprofen has an anti-inflammatory so good call on popping some! Next time the suns out, try a higher spf sunscreen, wear a hat and drink lots of water. :)

  4. On the upside, you could deliver a wicked head-butt while in the midst of your affliction. Perhaps there is a future for you as one of The Avengers!

    Glad you are getting better…

  5. The exact same thing started happening to me on Monday after a music festival on Sunday. Thank God for your blog, before I came across it I was in tears thinking I was a freak of nature and the only one. This is the first time it’s ever happened to me. I’m hoping it’ll be gone by the end of the week. I have no health insurance so the doctor isn’t quite an option for me.

  6. This happened to me on the first day of our honeymoon. I looked like a cave woman. We spent the 1st day at the swim-up bar in the Dominican Republic. Next morning my forehead was slightly swollen. By day 3 it spread down to my eyebrows. I had a headache and took pain reliever. I thought it was a hangover. Dahhh. I never went to the doctor. It went away by the 5th day. It’s been 4 weeks and the only thing that remains is the itchy area at my hairline on my forehead. Do you have this problem?

  7. Hi, I had exactly the same, on day 2 of my holiday in Cuba, my forehead swelled then the next day it spread downwards across my eyes and cheeks and I looked dreadful, like I had gone several rounds with Mike Tyson. I had to attend the clinic where they told me I had an allergic reaction to the sun. I was given an injection and steroid tablets. Took about 4 days to go down and been ok since.

  8. My 13 year old son has the same symtoms. They are almost identical to yours. Doctors have also treated him for cellulitis and sinus/allergies. I am at a loss for what to do. He has had xrays which did not show anything. He says if he sleeps with his head elevated, it helps it to not swell as much. It swells over night everytime. If you get any answers, let me know and I will do the same.

  9. oh my gosh it is happening to me right now!its crazy its almost all the way across my forehead and seems to go down through out the day, very little but it does seem to change. It is about ahalf inch high and growing,a friend told me its from poor sirculation,and/ or dehydration . it does not hurt,unless i look in the mirror! please let me know if you ever figure this mystery out, thanks and good luck! karma

  10. Hi there. It is happening to me. I woke up this morning and my forehead was swollen like yours. A few hours after, it started moving close to my eyes…

    I suspected an allergic reaction + a sunburn (even if i am not red) as I spent the last few days camping on a beach. I didn’t have internet to google it so I looked at what I had. I first put aloe vera (directly from the plant) and drank a ginger + honey tea. Then I put a bag of ice and I took 2 pills of Benadryl. After a few hours, it is almost gone. hope it helps someone… 😉

    I hope this can help someone 😉

    • Day 2: I drank a lot of water and it is almost gone. Could this be water retention caused by dehydration? If it is the case, drinking a lot of water everyday should help…

      • I have the same thing right now. It developed after spending the day on the beach in Wabasso florida on Tuesday 3/8/16. I didn’t use enough sun screen. My forehead is crazy swollen. I didn’t seek treatment knowing that I would be prescribed cool compresses, and probably a corticosteroid. I have been using cool compresses. I will pick up some hydrocortisone cream. What steroid did your doctor prescribe? Triamcinolone? I think the tissue swells as a result of the sunburn and since it is against a large bone the fluid has no where to go. My arms are burnt too but don’t have this amount of swelling.

  11. OMG! I’ve just got back from my holiday and exactly the same thing happened to me (it happened a couple of years ago too). My head was very swollen to start with then the swelling travelled down to my eyes making them look very wide apart (It lasted about 3 days). I actually felt like a freak! This is definitely down to sun burn because its happened to me twice now and every time it’s happened my head got burnt from the sun. Hopefully I’ll learn from this….cover up more in the sun! I just worry about the long term damage as it’s quite a severe reaction! X

  12. This year in mexico the same thing happened to swollen forehead that lead into my face i was hidious! I didnt see a doc cause it happened within the first 5 days and i was there for 2 weeks so i figured it was severe wayter retention, we travel there every year for 2 weeks and ive never had it happen before im 28 and fairly healthy but id still like to know what has happened just in case it happens again next year i know it goes away but it would be nice to find out. I have currently been dianosised threw a CT scan with chronic sinusitis possibly that has something to do with it?

  13. I have the same issue with the swollen forehead. The only thing I could think of was I changed sunscreen that day. I used the spray waterproof sunscreen. I had a hat on most of the day. The swelling is getting worse as the day progresses but I’m sure it was from sun exposure from yesterday. I agree, totally freaky. I also went running earlier in the day so dehydration could also be a factor. I think I’ll try the ginger tea and ibuprofen and see how that works. I’m glad it’s nothing serious I guess. Everyone always thinks the worst whe it comes to head issues.

  14. Wow so glad I read this. The exact same thing has happened to me the last 2 years ive been on holiday. I am going to the same place on holiday this Saturday and am dreading it happening again. Will try all suggestions of antihistamines, keeping hydrated and extra suncare to see if it works. Wish me luck (dont want my brother calling me an avatar again lol)

  15. Thank you for this post. We were camping this weekend and my son’s face swelled in his forehead primarily between his nose… My husband told me he looked weird (I had been busy doing other things and hadn’t noticed). When he came back from playing in the sand, I noticed! I was very alarmed and perplexed. He was bitten very bad by mosquitos and I thought ti was a reaction to that, but that didn’t make sense because he didn’t have bites in that region. He had been in the sun a while, however, and we expected to leave sooner, so the sunscreen was packed!

  16. I’ve stumbled across your blog because I’m experiencing something very similar and haven’t the foggiest idea what it is.

    I’ve just returned home from Glastonbury festival 2013 and this Monday (1st July) woke up, ready to drive home…. With a swollen lip. Insect bite I thought?? But no puncture marks visible.

    However as I drove the 7 hrs home, my left ear started to swell and get hot until the cartilage disappeared!….. Then I felt a weird pressure on my forehead. Got home, ran to the mirror and got the shock of my life. A huge lump of fluid on my lower forehead (the size of my hand), very similar to yours.

    Went to the doctors that evening and was told it was extreme sunburn (despite the fact I’ve been using SPF 30 and wasn’t burnt!) that possibly reacted badly to the trimethoprim tablets I’m on for my acne. Made worse by dehydration and tiredness on the journey home. Was given steroids and told it would go disappear like magic.

    Well it’s now Wednesday and the swelling has dropped from my forehead, onto the bridge of my nose, eye sockets, eyebrows (the sinus route) No redness, no pain just a hell of a lot fluid pushing pressure on my eyes and nose. And now my neck and throat have become swollen. Oh and the headaches!

    Back to the doctors, and they say its an infection in my sinuses caused by a possible allergy to sun exposure.i was just wondering if you were on any medication when you were exposed to sunlight? Surely if it was connected to tablets, it wouldn’t be so localised?

    Anyway, your blog has given me hope that whatever it is will riddle it’s way out in the next few days. Until then, frozen bag of peas it is!! Xxx

  17. My 20 yr old grandson is dealing with the same problem. He will have knots or just one huge knot form on his forehead that will drain down into his eyes and nose. Sometimes he has a headache to go along with them. Has seen several doctors, cat scans and MRI’s with
    no diagnosis. The problem went away and has now returned to our dismay. He did take a fishing trip right before this happened again but did not seem to have a sunburn.

  18. I’m glad you are feeling better and this helped me out alot. 2 days ago i was out swimmng for almost 7 hours i forgot to rapply sunscreen after awhile and got this killer sunburn on my face. Yesterday night i realized in the middle of my forhead it is swollen a bit. i didnt think to much of it thinking i got bit. then this morning, it was still there, luckely it isnt any bigger. So i started to look things up seeing if it had anything to do with a sunburn becuase i was honestly freaking out. so i googled it and came across your post. i read through it all and im sure i have the same issue. So thank you for settling my nerves. i wish you the best!

  19. Thank heavens for your blog. I woke up Monday morning with the klingon lump between my eyebrows. I will try the benedryl and drink lots of water. Sounds like it goes away within 5 days no matter what you do. Sure hope so.

      • Still have the lump. Had an MRI on August 28, 2013. Dr. said no bad news but will be giving me medication later today. It’s getting real red and has also started swelling between my eyes. It’s getting hard to keep my glasses in place.
        So, we still don’t know too much about this problem?

  20. My daughter get this to every time she gets a bad sun burn on her face. So yep that’s the problem and the only thing that helps is sunscreen and hats. Stay out of the sun.

  21. I’m currently experiencing this swelling! I got severely sun burnt along my hairline on wednesday and woke up thursday morning with a swollen forehead, it’s Saturday now and the swelling has moved to the bridge/eye area. It’s not sore, and i have no headaches, but it is mainly more uncomfortable than anything else. Thank you for your blog/posts, i was starting to panic when it became swollen between my eyes! I feel like quasimoto! Definately wearing hats from now on :)

  22. OMG! The same thing is happening to me but:
    1. I haven’t been out in the sun
    2. I have a medium to tan complexion
    3. I had swollen lymph nodes, and a looming ear infection.

    Taking antibiotics right now and something for the swollen lymphnodes but the swelling was already happening before I started taking the meds. Going back to the doctor tomorrow, but thanks for sharing your experience.

      • I’ve been reading these posts for some time now, so i thought I’d finally share my story.

        It started with facial cellulitis, much like the pictures posted above. I had insane fly like symptoms, high temperatures of 103-104.5. My body completely shut down. Chills, shakes, vomiting. I finally admitted myself to the ER to be admitted for a very very long 9 days. After seeing 3 specialists and about 100 blood tests all the Drs were insanely confused saying they’d never seen anything like it. I was even contained in a room to make sure whatever I had wasn’t contageous lol. It spread down to my left ear causing blisters inside and a cauliflower ear. The ent ( I saw about 7 different ones during my stay ) said they had never seen anything like it before as well which wasn’t reassuring. My ear drum hadn’t reupured but all over the inside of my ear were scabby blisters. I saw it myself and it was disgusting. I had a chest X-ray done at the time of admittance and came back just fine. I was on a constant iv antibiotic drop since admittance. The antibiotics changed constantly as ever doctor had a differet theory- it was like I was their little experiment. I had insane amounts of drugs being pumped through me which seemed to do nothing, as well as iv fluids from the constant nausea. My body was broken down I’ve never been so sick in my life. They were taking insane amounts of blood, I mean 5-6 vials twice daily all which every single day came back fine. Towards the end of my stay they were ruling out hiv and hepatitis to be safe which I knew would come back ok as I’ve been married for 6 years. At the end of the day they ruled it out as “some nasty virus”. A couple months later my hair started falling out in fistfuls from where the cellulits attacked my upperscalp through to the middle of my head. It’s been 6 months now and to say I haven’t felt myself since is an understatement. Lots of headaches, overall aches to be honest. I’m a fit 28 yr old woman. Never one to fall ill and get sick really. It’s all very bizare to me. One dr said in hindsight they should’ve sent my bloods to a microbiologist to see what they had to say. Hope this post helps you all! And hope whatever this condition is gets figured out soon!

        • Also forgot to mention cronic swollen lymphnodes all over the neck, upper head and behind ears at the time of admittance. Some which are still looming around 6 months later ( 2 behind left ear ) but all blood work comes back ok and gp doesn’t seem too worried about it.

          • Hi Laura, sorry for the late response as I didn’t see your reply. When admitted to the hospital they took a chest X-ray which came out clear. The only scans I had were the chest X-ray and towards the end of my hospital stay my liver started to act crazy (assumed from the extremely strong multiple antibiotics I was prescribed and was administered far too many times by very confused nurses) so I had a scan of my liver which came back completely normal. I did go back to the dr 2-3 times over the course of a month after being sent home from the hospital for Liver enzyme panel checks which continued to be quite elevated (from the probably strong antibiotic overdose) eventually around a month later they came back to normal.

            Still quite achy, deco not myself. But you can’t really go to the dr with the hey I don’t feel myself but don’t know what it is attitude because all they will do is blood checks which come back 100% fine- just as they did in the hospital-where they wouldn’t release me for 8 days and had me seeing a bazillion specialists and taking 12 vials of blood a day which all came back normal. Strange how that works huh.

  23. Hi there!

    The exact same thing happened to me on Sunday. Now it has traveled to the bottom of my eyes and cheeks. From what I’ve read, it seems to be a reoccurring thing with the sun. I am having a destination wedding and honeymoon in St. Lucia in July. I will die if this happens and my wedding photos looks like my fiancé is marrying a Klegon!!! This blog is a couple years old, does anyone know any preventative care I can do to not have to go through this on such a special day? please please please help!!!!!!


  24. hello! this is crazy. my forehead right now looks EXACTLY like yours in those photos.

    i have not been in the sun.
    we dont even have sun right now in this part of canada. haha. only grey.
    i do not have any kind of bite- i cant see any sort of puncture of specific bump.

    i tried antihistamines- didnt help.
    i tried anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxin)- didnt help.
    used a steroid cream- helped a little bit, but not much.

    i went to the walk-in clinic today and they told me that it just looks like some kind of allergy (it is quite itchy and hot) and said there is nothing else they can do. we went through lists of what it could possibly be- food allergy, new lotions/facewash/laundry detergent/etc…. nothing has changed! there is nothing new that i could be reacting to.

    the doctor just said “well it looks like an allergy, keep taking antihistamines, ice it, and keep using the steroid cream…”

    i have been icing it all day and the swelling has gone down the tiniest bit. i just hate that they said to keep on doing two things that i already tried which have not been successful!

    ugh. i just want to know what it is and find a quick solution!

  25. Hi! Glad I found this post. I am just getting back home from the ER with my 17yr old daughter. She woke up yesterday with a swollen forehead & this morning it went down to her eyes & nose area. She did get a little sunburnt over the wkend but not bad so im figuring it has something to do with that. The ER Dr treated her for cellulitus which she doesn’t have any of them yucky symptoms or tenderness of it. She got a steroid & antibiotic shot & antibiotics to take for 14 days & she has a follow up appt with her PCP in a couple days. Hopefully they will say something different from that ER Dr.

  26. Thank you for posting this I’m on vacation in Mexico with a huge forehead right now. I was in the sun the last three days and got sunburned yesterday. I was dreading going to a Mexico hospital but since reading this I think I’ll wait and try the usual stuff.

  27. I’m so glad that you wrote about this. I’m on what I hope is my final day of swelling. The swelling is past most of the bridge of my nose and more in my cheeks. If it wasn’t for finding your story I probably would have been completely freaked out by what was happening to me. I did go to the doctor just in case it was something worse but they could find anything really wrong and prescribed a steroid. I’m surprised that there is very little information about this issue and so far no one that I have talked to has ever heard of this happening. Anyway, thanks to you I feel relieved that I not the only person that has experienced this.

  28. I stumbled upon your blog… I’m experiencing the same kinds lump on my forehead. I’m in limbo with insurance.

  29. Relieved to hear so many similar stories. I was backpacking a few weeks ago, between 10,000 and 11,000 feet, and this happened to me. I’ve a lifetime behind me of having to be sun paranoid, and took all precautions. Big hat, big very dark glasses, covered up from neck to toe, SPF long-sleeved shirt over all, only my hands and face exposed, and doused in SPF 50 sunscreen. Because last year I’d developed an allergy to standard sunscreens, this time I used a naturally-sourced one, based on zinc and titanium. But I’d wake up in the mornings to find my whole face was hugely swollen. I looked like the elephant man, and the water-balloon like blobs around my eyes almost made it hard to see. My hands looked like when you blow up latex gloves like a balloon. I thought it must be sun allergy, which I’d had many years ago, but wondered why there was no associated rash. Now I wonder if it’s yet another sunscreen reaction. Or is it just what’s going to happen to me in the sun from now on, sunscreen or not?
    And my group at work is going on a sailing outing in a few days…
    Do keep this blog post circulating. I’ve not found anything about this reaction in the official literature, and doctors will deny its existence until they read it in their textbooks.

  30. My skin is sensitive and I was suffering from a lot of different allergies in my teenage and early twenties, sun allergies included. For the past several years I have got better…in not showing my face to the sun, wearing hats and sunglasses. Now I am on holidays and I came to this blog bcs I was googling exactly the same as majority of ppl here: swollen forehead at first, after a few days- bridge of the nose etc. So yeah, I was not careful and 3 days ago got very burned -especially forehead and tip of the nose. Glasses are very well outlined and it looks awful, like a panda bear. I was just applying aloe lotion to all my face since then, but yesterday forehead got swollen and today it is the bridge of the nose. Moreover, the tip of my nose got yellow-white pimples/spots and nose is super itchy from inside and outside.
    As I already experienced similar symptoms before, I have been taking CLARITYNE (loratadine) already since yesterday. I continue today, continue with aloe gel and continue drinking water. I also sleep a lot as I generally feel tired. As for the tip of my nose, I bought today ACYCLOVIR – this is what doctor prescribed me before, which is a topical steroid. I just know it needs at least 5 days to disappear. Best advice to myself-wear hat plus glasses at all times, even in the swimming pool. I get really tanned and dark while having rather pale completion, just need to be careful with the face. Really bumped about all this and hope all of us get better soon!

  31. I laughed when I heard your story not being mean or anything even though you were pretty funny…. I can relate same experience from beginning to end after first day of vacationing in Puerto Vallarta Mexico I woke up to a swollen forehead then days later it w ent down into my eyes … It was a nightmare no one knew what it was I think I just took bendryl and was miserable the rest of the trip .. thanks for finally answering my questions I’ve wondered about since that was years ago. Some said it was sun poisoning but I’ve always been out in the sun so none of it made sense.. it was all a mystery.. I freaked out .. but was glad it went away.. thanks once again you made my day…

  32. I get a bloody nose with clots that last two days and then the lumps go away. My one eye also is swollen, but I thought that was because of the many radiation treatments I had 4 years ago. I know I have allergies, but my forehead has never swollen until now. I’m glad I came across your post. I thought I was the only one going through this. The lump is very painful. I will be making a Doctor appointment. You’re very brave to show your picture and I for one really appreciate it.

  33. I looked like a Klingon the other day due to getting sunburnt on Saturday. I had my hair pulled back so my hairline got seriously burnt. By that evening I had a small amount of swelling in the middle of my forehead, sunday my whole forehead swelled. Over the last two days the swelling or should I say fluid has made its way to the bridge of my nose and eyelids making my eyes look very wide apart. It seems to be one eye cops it worse. It’s Wednesday today so I’m hopeful by Friday I should look relatively normal again! So pleased to have come across this :)

  34. Hi, I came across your blog in search of answers to this same thing that happens to my fiance when he gets a bad sunburn on his face. This time I gave him Benedryl right when we notice his swollen forhead and within a couple hours it started to go away. He woke the next day with swollen eyes and the bridge of his nose and again I gave him a benedryl and again it went away with an hour or two. Very strange but I do think it’s a sort of allergic reaction to the sunburn. Just my opinion though. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  35. Very fine photo-documentary 😉
    Similar swelling reaction to moderately severe sunburn on forehead and top of head (fading hairline)……..though have had similar sunburns before (during past 60 years) without recollection of any such swelling. After 2 days (and out in more sun, though slathered with sun lotion), fluid clearly migrating down to bridge of nose and now below eyes (starting to close which is most irritating). Sleeping position has influence on fluid migration. Will try drinking more water and reducing salt intake (French Fries!).

  36. Same exact thing is happening with me. Day 2 “traveled south.” Hoping I’m good by day 4-5 like you. Ty for this! I couldn’t find anybody that said how long it took.

  37. I’ve been told it is sun poisoning. My mom is a nurse. If it ever happens again give noxzema a try. Its working wonders! Also vitamin E lotion, Benadryl,Motrin 800s, and cold compress! I guess aloe dries u out and oily lotions make the pores unable to breathe. Again so glad you did it by days. As I said in the post above I was finding all sorts of ways ppl were treating it, but nobody saying how long it lasted. Im On day 2 almost 3. Hopefully I’ll be good by day 4-5 like you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Lol back to sleep I go!

  38. Thanks for your thoughtful, brave and well-written blog. Have you had any recurrence since then? I’ve suffered from chronic sinusitis for a few years now. Only recently did I start this facial swelling. My forehead looks similar to yours in the earlier photos. I have had many rounds of antibiotics, a CT-scan, an MRI, sinus surgery two weeks ago. Not sure if allergies are involved – I’ve never been tested. Also, I was doing great till a follow-up appointment two days ago when my ENT shoved a variety of instruments up my nose. Then the swelling came back. Just a relief to know I’m not the only one going through weird stuff. Who knows if we all have similar things or a variety of oddities. Good luck to everyone.

  39. I have something like yours but mine has been there for months my Doc has no idea whats going on, he is sending to me a skin doc.. I dont think this is going to help but who knows!! when i get hot my forehead turns all red and feels just weird im so tired of looking like a cave women sometimes it goes down to my eyebrows to, also have deep lines on my forehead next to the lump very worried about this :(!! will let you all kntow if they figure it out

  40. my moms head looks identical to your first picture! Her arms and legs are sunburnt but her head is not. she was in the sun a lot. part of the time she had a helmet on while riding a motorcycle and we thought that the swelling may be related to the helmet and heat until we saw your pictures. thank you for posting this i was freaking out!!

  41. hi I’m experiencing the same swelling that you’ve described, it’s been two days and the swelling is now reached the bridge of my nose and I look almost like a chipmunk. I’ve consulted a doctor and he has given me some medicine and the swelling is going down slowly. I just wanted to ask if you’ve experienced it again. I haven’t been able to identify the cause but sun exposure seems most probable so I wanted to ask if there are any precautions that might have helped or anything useful you can think of

  42. this has happened to me today, I’m in Spain and got badly burnt on the top of my forehead , didn’t think anything of it woke up this morning and my forehead had swelled up , I fainted straight away at the sight of it and couldn’t see for a good 10 mins went straight the hospital for them to put me on a drip and say it’s strange they have never seen anything like it, they done scans and everything was fine

  43. Thank you!! I was freaking out. I just got back from Cancun. I had the bump on my forehead, yesterday moved to my nose and today is my eyes.

  44. My son had this recently as well. Kind of looked like a Frankenstein in a way. Does anyone have anything on MRI or CT? He does have some inflammation on labs that give concern towards autoimmune issues. Sinus issues and allergies. Drs aren’t concerned. Wondering if anyone has brain inflammation?

    • I have been dealing with facial swelling due to sinus issues gone bad, though it’s currently under control. CT and MRI showed a very small hole in my frontal sinus wall (created from multiple infections or allergy attacks), allowing the sinus infection to have access to the front parts of my face. Sinus surgery helped to create a larger opening for drainage through my nose, and antibiotics, etc. have curbed the infection. I don’t think CT or MRI scans will show anything with his autoimmune system – they’d have to do blood work for that. Hope you have some good docs. Good luck!

    • Hi, just read your question about brain inflammation. I am currently experiencing my fourth unexplained forehead lump, but for me they are like a small grape under my skin on the left side of my forehead, always in the same spot, lasting about 10 hours. In response to some repeated migraines, my doctors have discovered a “probable proteinaceous cyst on my pineal glad”. Which is in the center of my brain. I’ve had CSF blockages and some swelling issues as a result. The doctors have no idea why I am getting these forehead lumps though. Do you know something about these lumps being related to brain inflammation?

    • Hi, just read your question about brain inflammation. I am currently experiencing my fourth unexplained forehead lump, but for me they are like a small grape under my skin on the left side of my forehead, always in the same spot, lasting about 10 hours. In response to some repeated migraines, my doctors have discovered a “probable proteinaceous cyst on my pineal glad”. Which is in the center of my brain. I’ve had CSF blockages and some swelling issues as a result. The doctors have no idea why I am getting these forehead lumps though. Do you know something about these lumps being related to brain inflammation?

    • Hi, just read your question about brain inflammation. Please see my reply below, sorry I put it on the wrong post!

  45. The swelling is likely idiopathic angioedema. It affects mainly face, neck, hands and feet.
    It is a swelling of unknown cause, usually treated with very strong prescription antihistamines. It can happen completely at random and without warning. Very erratic condition which can be made worse by ace-inhibitor drugs (the ones that end in -pril in the UK).
    I suffer from this condition which can be debilitating and very frustrating.

  46. The exact thing happened to me whilst on my honeymoon in Mexico. Both my husband and I got badly burnt the first day. The following morning I awoke and my forehead was swollen but I thought maybe I had a reaction to a mosquito bite. That night I could have cried when I looked in the mirror! The swelling had dropped down to the bridge of my nose and I looked hideous (not the kind of look you want to be rocking on your honeymoon!!) I went to see the doctor that day and he told me it was sun poisoning caused by severe sunburn and he gave me a duretic shot and told me to stay out of the sun. He also said it would take it’s course for the fluid to drain. It took 3/4 days for me to return to normal – just in time for me to be going home :(
    I am so glad I came across this as for a long time I thought I was the only one to suffer from this!

  47. Hey! I have a similar thing right now although it is not across my full forehead. There is a red patch on it which is sore if I press it (I originally thought it was a spot) but the swelling around it is too large for that. I went on a sun bed the day I noticed it. I do have dark skin and tan well however I never put my face in the sun bed and on this day I did! I am hoping it goes away as I am away on holiday in 4 weeks! I will be wearing a high factor and a hat! Thanks for posting xx

  48. Across the Pacific, I live in Sydney Australia. I am now experiencing something similar for the second time in 5 weeks. Mine started with what felt like a cramp in my left jaw, I woke up the next morning with swelling in my left cheek that over the next few days moved to my left temple, following day my forehead and the day I finally too myself to the ER my left eye was almost swollen shut.
    I had four blood tests and cat scan, nothing came up. Lots of possibilities.. could be an infection, virus, allergic reaction, abscess, sinus or stress. To get me out of the ER the Doctors thought it may be a blocked tear duct, however at the time my eye was watering. The swelling went away on its own with no meds until yesterday.
    Yesterday, I woke up with another swollen eye, which moved to my cheek and now in my forehead. Its great to have found this blog, Im a little concerned that I’m off on an overseas trip on Sunday. Heres hoping cabin pressure doesn’t affect this condition.

  49. Hi randomly was looking to see if anyone looked like my forehead did a year ago & is currently reoccurring. Check out Angioedema … Swelling under the skin & hyper reaction to stress. It’s basically an enormous stress hive. Like people get them from triggers like peanuts.. Stress can trigger hives/swelling too under you skin. It moves it grows etc and I looked just like you. Hope you are well and things are better!

  50. Thank you SOOO much for your post. I have the exact same thing going on right now. 31y/o female, no pain, no obvious bites, no sunburn. I was however out fly fishing the day before the swelling appeared. I’m rather fair skinned, and usually wear a large brimmed hat when I go fishing, but hadn’t that day due to some unseasonably pleasant weather, and a short trip (under 2hrs). Although I do spend a decent amount of time outdoors without hats, this is the first time I’ve ever had an apparent reaction. On the beginning of day three now and over half of my forehead is swollen, hairline to brow line. Took an antihistamine, and pushing fluids. Looks like I need some new hats. Lol

    • Hi Laura, sorry for the late response as I didn’t see your reply. When admitted to the hospital they took a chest X-ray which came out clear. The only scans I had were the chest X-ray and towards the end of my hospital stay my liver started to act crazy (assumed from the extremely strong multiple antibiotics I was prescribed and was administered far too many times by very confused nurses) so I had a scan of my liver which came back completely normal. I did go back to the dr 2-3 times over the course of a month after being sent home from the hospital for Liver enzyme panel checks which continued to be quite elevated (from the probably strong antibiotic overdose) eventually around a month later they came back to normal.

      Still quite achy, deco not myself. But you can’t really go to the dr with the hey I don’t feel myself but don’t know what it is attitude because all they will do is blood checks which come back 100% fine- just as they did in the hospital-where they wouldn’t release me for 8 days and had me seeing a bazillion specialists and taking 12 vials of blood a day which all came back normal. Strange how that works huh.

  51. Hi, I came upon your blog while looking for an explanation for my forehead swelling. On 3/27 I went on an 11 mile urban hike around the edge of Brooklyn, NY. Because it’s still March, temps in the forties and cloudy, the use of sunscreen and a hat never entered my mind until that afternoon. What a burn! I noticed the forehead swelling the day after, and saw an MD for something previously scheduled and unrelated. He said just to take ibuprofen, which I would have done that morning except I was fasting for bloodwork. Forehead back to normal now but like with you it has moved down to my eyes and nose. I skipped my boxing class today because of sore feet from the hike. Your descriptions and pictures and the responses have been very helpful to me.

  52. The first time my forehead swelled I was 23 and had just returned from my honeymoon in Mexico. Yes I did get sunburnt and I also used sunscreen. My forehead rested on the top of my sunglasses.
    I did not seek medical treatment as I assumed that it was sun poisoning…
    I spent every summer weekend on the beach for the next 18 years and never had another similar occurrance. I was always active, fit and rarely used sunscreen.
    It happened again though.. This time I was 42 with no recent sun exposure.
    I was under extreme stress going through a divorce and having lost a very important person in my life three months in a row..
    My stress was high, my diet poor and I was probably extremely dehydrated..
    I went to the e.r. they said it was an extreme allergic reaction. They put me on an IV with benadryl and pepcid as well as fluids.. Like most who have posted, It did not help.
    This time it took almost a year and a half to heal… Jefferson Dermotology gave me oral and topical steroids as well as antibacterial ointments. I wasn’t able to have patch testing done for a year because my skin on my face didn’t return to a normal state before then (I returned to the dermatologist every 2 months in that time)…
    I also had an endoscopy that found my entire stomach lining had tiny cuts throughout and I suffered from seasonal allergies as well as eczema, numular eczema and was recently told dermatitis herpetiformis… I spent thousands of dollars going to several types of doctors. I even saw an infectious disease Dr. I have had mono (as a teen) and Lyme disease (in my early 30’s). Neither were active…
    My father has ichthyosis and passed the gene to me.. Could that be it??
    Or.. Since there were very high stress levels and a poor diet on both occurrances… Is it stress, a vitamin deficiency and dehydration??
    My skin began improving as I returned to my old exercise program of weights, cardio and grazing vs 3 meals a day (water intake increased as well) … I also gave up gluten… (no more steroids or creams)
    I don’t have any answers, but hopefully my post is helpful in finding an answer.

  53. From tomorrow i’m gonna lose weight. Summer is comming girls!
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  54. Yup… happening right now to me too. This is the second time, first time was 3 years ago. Both times while in Mexico, so I’m pretty sure it is sun related. Glad to hear I’m not alone. I was prescribed Viaderm ointment… hope this lump is gone soon!

  55. Hi All,

    I recently developed same thing. My forehead starts swelling by the evening and it vanishes by next day morning. Visited a neurologist and consulted a psychiatrist & ENT specialist. Finally, a break through in analysis. It has to be air entrapment if the swelling is absorbing on it’s own overnight. Hence, in my case it is a problem related to Sinus cavities in the skull. CT Scan is scheduled next week, will keep posted.

  56. Thank you so much for posting this!!! After 2 long days of searching I finally came across your post and it matches perfectly to my situation. I always itch from the sun late spring/early summer. I thought I was allergic to the sun!! And then this happened after I got a sunburn on my head. Confirmed. The sun hates me!

  57. I am so glad you posted. I have the same thing right now and could find nothing! I just got back from my honeymoon which I spent most of forgetting to put on sunscreen and surfing. Now I know how to approach the doctor. Thank you!

  58. I am looking for ideas/success stories of preventing this from happening again.

    Does applying sunscreen more frequently help? Does staying hydrated seem to help? Has anyone had this happen to them once or twice but not again (hopefully due to some preventative measures)? I would love to hear your thoughts!

  59. Yup, i shaved my head a couple of days ago and went to a festival,

    the sun was extremely hot and my head is burned pretty hard.

    Since a couple of hours ago i started getting the same swelling, same region so it’s def to much UVA, UVB exposure..

  60. I’m going through the same thing right now. It’s on my forehead and I’m so worried what it will look like in the morning….

  61. I just searched sunburn swelling and found this article. I am going through this exact thing right now. Rode motorcycle Sunday and was burned on my forehead, woke up yesterday with a horrible headache, my forehead completely swollen and extremely nauseated. Today I woke up and the swelling had moved down and currently the bridge of my nose and eyelids are swollen. Headache is better today but I feel exhausted! I happened to have a doctor appointment yesterday and once they believed I had not “hit my head on anything,” they decided it could be from the sunburn. My one odd thing is yesterday and again today my blood pressure is very high for me. I am now convinced this is from the sunburn but am not sure exactly how far down the swelling will travel before it goes away! It will be interesting to see if I have this ever happen again.

  62. I suspect you have recurrent angioedema.
    Certain investigations should be done.
    Please see a doctor (allergist). Walk in clinic doctors may not be familiar with this.

  63. Hi everyone, I’m so pleased to know I’m not the only one who has experienced this horriable forehead/nose/eye lump. Mine was exactly as seen in the photos above. It happened in 2015 and then again this year it is horriable as it latest four of my 7 days whilst their and you feel like your face isn’t your face, very self conscious as it is so really doesn’t help matters, looking around at everyone thinking why don’t they have the same or others seem burnt and yet don’t have. I’m really keen to know what it actually is and what I can do to prevent it next holiday as it has put me off Summer holidays especially just one week as it spoils it. I also went to the doctors whilst abroad where they just said to keep out the sun and to apply and cream to the face one which I believe is used for prickly heat. Anyway any advice would be great thank you

  64. Thanks for posting this on your blog. I started to experience forehead swelling on me two years back. But much less than yours. Its usually on one side of the forehead. The swelling moves around sometimes as well. Like it maybe on my forehead but when I sleep it may move to my cheekbone or under the eyebrows.

    One of the things that definitely triggers this for me is wheat beer. Think hoegarden or similar ones. But few months back even a couple of glasses or rose wine triggered it.

    And this morning I didn’t drink any alcohol and i think it was triggered by a burrito I had last night. This has happened with me a few times in the past too that i got a swelling buy hadn’t had any sort of alcohol the day before. I also had limonata lemon drink you get at Starbucks.

    I hope you find your triggers soon. I still haven’t found the exact trigger for it.

  65. For so long I’ve thought I’m the only weirdo this happens to! Every time I go to the Carribbean this happens to me! So embarrassing. I usually take some allergy/sinus meds and it helps a tiny bit, but it’s so weird how it will move and its squishy. So annoying! I told my dr about it and he was intrigued. Next time I go, I’m showing him the picture of my alien forehead!

  66. Thanx for sharing your story. I too woke up with this bizarre swelling on my forehead this morn so i googled “swollen forehead” & your pic was one that showed up & i liked your spirit so i chose your pic to see what u had to say. I feel much better after reading your blog cuz now i know i’m not going to die as i’ve been jkg abt to my sister. She thought i had hives but at least i hav hope that it may go away in 5 days. I wasnt in sun but may have eaten something that i got a reaction to. I am still working on that one. thanx for sharing your story. I feel better now.

  67. Thanks Lynn and ALL for this page. I didn’t know what the hell was going on and was driving me bananas. For me – same thing as Jay – hairline sunburn swelling that moved down to central forehead. Also had some other sunburn symptoms (chills) that I hadn’t had ages and didn’t put together until reading this. Ibuprofen has been the only thing helping, which makes sense. Was pretty dehydrated when it happened – that can’t have helped either. Will post progress in a couple days.

    Thanks again!

  68. Hello Lynn,
    It seems that you have hit on a much needed topic. I am assuming that you probably don’t look at this anymore due to the age of the post however I would like to share our story in the hopes of helping/receiving help.

    Two years ago, our 16 year old son began suffering from reoccurring swelling in the left jaw and lip. We are in the medical field and rallied all of our MD buddies to try and determine a cause. We settled on an infection in the less vascularized area of the jaw which in theory would flare up and then reduce with the introduction of antibiotics ( usually 5 days). We thought we had it.

    A few months passed and the swelling returned. This time it was the center of his forehead across the bridge of his nose. I laughed when I saw the Clingon statements because that was my first thought when I saw him. To us this reaction appeared to be more allergy related due to its appearance, location, and lack of pain. As the days progressed the swelling would spread to his eyes and then would dissipate after 4-5 days. He had no injury, no sun exposure, etc. The second time this occurred we began treating it with Benedryl. We also had an allergy test performed after the swelling and antihistamine dose subsided. The test came back negative and the allergist suggested that we keep a food log.

    We soon found that exposure to shrimp resulted in a quick reaction. Over a few months we also came to the conclusion that crab, lobster, and even clams would eventually cause this reaction. He is diligent in not eating these identified foods however about once every 6 weeks we still have the reaction. As with many teens Ramen noodles were a staple after school snack. Out of curiosity, my wife inspected the ingredients and found that they are made in the same facility that processes shellfish. We thought we had the culprit, but a month later we were dealing with a Clingon again. We have narrowed it down to certain foods including (big macs special sauce) and anything that contains shellfish. We have also determined that stress and lack of sleep is a major contributor.
    Our treatment involves large doses of Benedryl 125-150mg upon onset and for the following 2-3 nights. Yes, this is a large dose and yes, it will knock you out and occasionally make you say some silly things (like ambien) but it does significantly reduce the symptoms. Early dosage is paramount. In conjunction sleep elevated, use a cold compress, and drink plenty of water. I am in full agreement that this is stress related localized angioedema. Stress can be an allergen, emotional, or physical stress. It seems that he will be dealing with this issue for some time so we must learn to treat it and reduce its impact. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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