It’s fine to have fun in the sun! But when you overdo it, sun poisoning is sure to happen. The condition needs extra care – so make sure you know the signs.
Essentially, sun poisoning is a really bad sunburn. It’s a severe reaction caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. A sunburn is often red and tender, topped off with blisters and peeling. It can take 24 hours to appear, but the pain is the worst after 6 to 48 hours.
Sun poisoning is so much more. While it’s technically not “poison,” the effects are so bad that it might as well be. Here is what you need to know about sun poisoning.
Dangers Of Sun Poisoning
Sun exposure can do a number on your skin cells. The damage leads to photoaging, a process where UV rays change the skin. But instead of a nice tan, you’ll get wrinkles, sun spots, and a leathery texture. What’s worse is that normal aging is separate. Together, chronological aging plus photoaging makes you look older than you are.1
And then there’s the risk of skin cancer. It’s the most common cancer in the country, with over 3 million new cases each year. The carcinogen in question? Sunlight. The damage is done once it happens. You can’t reverse sun poisoning, but you can at least know what to look for. If the following symptoms get worse, call a doctor as soon as possible.2 3
Signs Of Sun Poisoning
A sunburn might already seem like a rash, but sun poisoning is on another level. The burn can be so bad that it causes an allergic reaction.
In this case, the immune system thinks the sun-altered skin is an “intruder.” It just goes to show how much damage the sun can do. The major symptom is an itchy, red rash. Rarely, hives or small blisters may form. The most common spots? Outer arms, lower legs, “V” of the neck, and behind the hands.4
Cold weather isn’t the only thing that can cause a fever. If a sunburn is really bad, it can make your body temperature shoot up. It’s a tell-tale sign that your body is fighting something. Remember, sun-damaged skin is an invader to the immune system. A fever means that it’s working overtime.5
Again, chilly weather isn’t the only cause of chills! It’s a precursor to a fever and thus it can spot the progress of sun poisoning.6
The chills and fever might even feel like the flu. According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, sun exposure increases interleukin-6 (IL-6), a pro-inflammatory cytokine. UV light prompts skin cells to make more IL-6. In turn, inflammation increases, causing these flu-like symptoms.7
Sun poisoning can suck the life out of you. Feeling sluggish and groggy are common things, and it’s all because of that IL-6 inflammation. You might also be dehydrated from the heat, so drink a lot of water.8
With all of these symptoms, you’re likely to feel nauseous. The general feeling of discomfort will be hard to ignore. In the case of severe sun poisoning, you might even feel dizzy or lightheaded.9
How To Treat Sun Poisoning
If you still have sun poisoning despite taking all the necessary precautions, then you can treat it by doing the following things.10
- Take a cool shower or bath.
- Place a cold compress on the burn and apply aloe vera gel or cortisone cream.
- If it’s really painful, take an over-the-counter painkiller like ibuprofen.
- Don’t forget to cover up the blisters with dry bandages to prevent infection.
In the future, make it a priority to prevent sun poisoning. Your health depends on it.
|↑1||Rittié, Laure, and Gary J. Fisher. “Natural and sun-induced aging of human skin.” Cold spring harbor perspectives in medicine 5, no. 1 (2015): a015370.|
|↑2||Skin Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||Diao, Diana Y., and Tim K. Lee. “Sun-protective behaviors in populations at high risk for skin cancer.” Psychology research and behavior management 7 (2014): 9.|
|↑4||Sun Allergy (Photosensitivity). Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.|
|↑5||Fever. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑6||Chills. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑7, ↑8||Urbanski, Agatha, Thomas Schwarz, Peter Neuner, Jean Krutmann, Reinhard Kirnbauer, Thomas A. Luger, and Andreas Köck. “Ultraviolet light induces increased circulating interleukin-6 in humans.” Journal of investigative dermatology 94, no. 6 (1990): 808-811.|
|↑9, ↑10||Sunburn. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|