It’s Time to See the Doctor

woman with severe sunburn
Sun protection is a hot bed subject in the beauty and skin care market and we are all aware of taking precautions to protect our skin from the sun. Despite all this, sunburn and even sun poisoning does happen. Find out what to do if it happens to you.

Sun poisoning doesn’t actually mean you’ve been poisoned by the sun. It’s just a term for severe sunburn and it occurs when UV radiation inflames your skin. Some symptoms that might let you know when you’ve crossed the line from sunburn into sun poisoning territory include skin redness and blistering, pain and tingling, swelling, headache, fever and chills, nausea, dizziness and dehydration.

Sun poisoning can be often be treated at home. Remedies include getting out of the sun; taking a cool bath or shower; applying cool compresses; drinking extra fluids; taking over the counter pain killers to relieve pain; using an aloe gel or moisturizer; and covering sunburned areas when you go outside. However, there are some symptoms that might cause you to seek immediate medical attention. These include a sunburn that forms a blister, covers a large area or is very painful; facial swellings; fever and chills; upset stomach; headache, confusion or faintness; and signs of dehydration.

Just fifteen minutes in the sun can lead to sunburn and any more time than that can lead to sun poisoning. It begins with symptoms similar to that of sunburn so it can often go unnoticed at first.  In fact, according to UPMC Health Beat, the short term negative effects of sun poisoning manifest themselves for the next 4-7 days with more severe long term effects extending beyond the first week.

sunburned woman
The best way to protect yourself against sun poisoning is to take preemptive measures. These include wearing protective clothing like hats, sunglasses and long sleeved shirts to block UV rays. Applying broad spectrum sunblock of 30 SPF or higher before going outside is also a great way to protect yourself. Apply on your whole body paying close attention to neck, legs and arms where you are most susceptible to sun poisoning. Be sure to apply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM when the sun is at its strongest. Also, check your medications. Acne medications, antibiotics, diuretics, heart drugs and birth control pills are all likely to make you more sensitive to the sun.

There are other types of sun poisoning as well. One is polymorphous light eruption or PMLE. It happens to people who are exposed to intense sunlight they are not used to like fair skinned people living in northern climates. In this case, the sun poisoning will manifest itself in the form of a rash which may be itchy and include bumps and hives.  Solar Urticaria is another form of sun poisoning which can develop within minutes of exposure to the sun. Symptoms may include wheezing, dizziness, itchiness, redness, hives or welts on skin and loss of consciousness. Antihistamines can treat some cases but see your doctor for advice. To treat PMLE or Solar Urticaria, you may want to see you doctor so he can prescribe steroids to go on your skin or phototherapy to desensitize skin to UV light.


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