The term "sun poisoning" usually refers to severe sunburn, although there are two other types of sun poisoning we will talk about next week. Contrary to the name, when you have sun poisoning, you have not been poisoned. Normally, sun poisoning is uncomfortable and may be painful but symptoms are not long-lasting. Sun poisoning, like sunburns, are more common in fair-skinned people and have been linked to an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Preventing Sun Poisoning
Because sunburns often show up hours after you have been in the sun, you may not realize the intensity of your sun burn until evening, when your skin continues to become redder and you are not feeling well. Over-exposure to the sun can damage DNA, which may lead to developing skin cancer. Repeated bouts of sunburn and sun poisoning increase this risk. This is why is it so important to take preventative steps every time you will be outside.
- Stay out of direct sunlight during the late morning and afternoon hours
- Wear a wide brimmed hat
- Wear sunglasses
- Wear light clothing to protect your skin
Because some medications can cause a sensitivity to sunlight, you should talk with your doctor about any medications you are on and find out if you need to take additional precautions, especially during the hot, summer months.
Symptoms of Sun Poisoning
A "typical" sunburn causes redness, peeling and itching. Sun poisoning includes these symptoms but you may also have:
- Fever and chills
These symptoms range from mild to severe and normally disappear in a few days to a week.
Treatment for Sun Poisoning
Most people who get sun poisoning do not need or seek out medical attention. The majority will treat symptoms at home, with remedies such as:
- Drinking extra fluids to prevent or treat dehydration
- Staying out of the sun or making sure any affected areas are completely covered when going outside
- Applying cool compresses to painful areas or taking cool showers
- Using moisturizers, especially those containing aloe
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers to help relieve pain
For more severe symptoms, you should talk with your doctor. If you are experiencing fever or chills, confusion, dizziness or fainting, headache or nausea, it is time to seek medical attention. Based on the severity of the symptoms, your doctor may want to speed up efforts to rehydrate and place you on an IV for several hours. An oral steroid may also be prescribed to help relieve swelling.
"Dangers of Sun Poisoning," Date Unknown, Jane McGrath, Discovery Fit and Health
"How to Treat Sun Poisoning," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, SunPoisoning.org
"Sun Poisoning: Recognizing the Signs, Treating the Symptoms," Date Unknown, Sarah Densmore, Dummies.com
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.