Sun Poisoning: What is it, and How can it be Treated?

August 31, 2017
Sun Poisoning

While "sun poisoning" might sound like a frightening term, it only refers to a common issue that affects millions of Americans every year. That said, while this issue is common, it can also lead to serious consequences, especially when it happens many times in a person's life.
What Is Sun Poisoning?
Despite its apparent connotation, sun poisoning doesn't mean a person has actually been poisoned. In reality, it's a term used to describe especially severe cases of sunburn, in which ultraviolet (UV) radiation has inflamed the skin.
Depending on their skin tones, people can become sunburned in just 15 minutes. Most of the time, however, they don't realize their skin has become inflamed until more damage occurs. If a burn becomes especially severe, sun poisoning can result, with symptoms showing up a few hours after exposure.
What Are the Symptoms?
Sun poisoning can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including:

  • Tingling and pain
  • Blistering and redness
  • Headache
  • Swelling
  • Chills and fever
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration

In some cases, severe sunburn can contribute to heat stroke, especially when a person becomes dehydrated.
Treating Sun Poisoning
In most cases, severe sunburns respond well to at-home treatments. These include:

  • Getting out of the sun
  • Cool compresses or cool (not cold) baths or showers
  • Drinking extra fluids for a day or two
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Aloe moisturizers or gels

If your experience any of the following, however, you should see a doctor:

  • Chills and fever
  • Facial swelling
  • Blisters that are painful or cover large portions of the body
  • Upset stomach
  • Symptoms of severe dehydration
  • Confusion, headache or faintness

Studies suggest that severe sunburns can increase a person's risk of melanoma, so it's important to follow basic sun safety guidelines whenever you are outdoors.

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