Sun Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Fun in the sun is always a good idea until it leads you to health hazard like sun poisoning.

Fun in the sun is always a good idea until it leads you to health hazard like sun poisoning.

Fun in the sun is always a good idea until it leads you to health hazard like sun poisoning.

So, what is sun poisoning? It is a layman’s term for severe sunburn. It is a skin reaction following prolonged exposure to the sun’s strong ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Other names associated with this condition are photodermatitis and polymorphic light reaction. The similarity between sun poisoning and sunburn makes this difficult to identify. As both manifest as sunburn from exposure to UV rays, sun poisoning differs in the severity of symptoms. This article will walk you thru its causes, symptoms, and treatment.


What Causes Sun Poisoning?

There are many possible causes that can lead to severe sunburn. Sun poisoning is more likely to affect some people than others but, does not affect everyone. And sometimes there is no known cause at all. Pre-existing skin conditions and certain medications can make the skin more sensitive to UV rays. A UV light is a radiation energy present in sunlight as its main source. In addition, the sun carries with it three types of UV rays but only two (UVA and UVB) reach the earth. Below is a list of additional risk factors that increase susceptibility:

  • Race. Sun allergies are common in people with lighter skin. This not to say however the people of darker skin safe from it.
  • Exposure to certain substances. Allergic skin reactions can happen when your skin is exposed to a substance and then to the sun. A perfume, disinfectant, and lotions may trigger the allergic reaction.
  • Taking certain medications. Antibiotics, topical medications, sulfa-based drugs, and pain relievers can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
  • Other pre-existing conditions. Having dermatitis, eczema, and lupus increases your risk of sun allergy.
  • Hereditary considerations. Having parent or siblings with sun allergy will make you more likely to have a sun allergy.


What Are the Symptoms of Sun Poisoning?

There is no such thing as a good sunburn. Too much of sun without SPF protection can do more than turn your skin from light to dark, it can make you sick. Its symptoms are like to that of sunburn but with worse additional symptoms manifestation. Sun poisoning if left untreated may cause permanent skin damage and skin cancer. Within 15 minutes of sun exposure, can get you sunburned. Thus, redness and discomfort will manifest after two to six hours.

A feeling like flu is coming after long exposure to the sun may tell you that you have sun poisoning. “When the skin is damaged by UV rays, it releases chemicals that basically turn on the immune system and make you feel terrible like you’ve got the flu,” says John Anthony, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition, sun poisoning can cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe redness and pain
  • Blistering or peeling of skin
  • Pain and tingling
  • Headache, fever, and chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting


Treatment of Sun Poisoning

Home treatment and self-care may address sun poisoning. However, in some cases, medical intervention is recommended. When the affected area is large in coverage and affecting several body parts, getting medical attention is needed. Most importantly, seeking medical help will ensure proper treatment and avoid complications.

Treatment of sun poisoning will take focus management of its specific symptoms.


If you can, it is best to leave blisters alone. The blister that has popped is a potential entry of infection. Cleaning the area and covering the area with a sterile dressing to protect it from infection. Normally change frequency is daily or in some cases, as soon as it gets wet or dirty.

Light therapy

For severe sun allergy, your doctor might put you through light therapy. Light therapy is also known as phototherapy. A treatment exposing skin gradually to a small dose of UVA or UVB light until your skin gets used to sunlight. Light therapy also reduces the itch and calm infections.

Drug therapy

In some cases, treatment of prescribed drugs may be needed. Corticosteroids cream are available over-the-counter that will relieve skin rash. As you develop a severe allergic reaction from sun poisoning, short course corticosteroid pills may be prescribed.

Home Remedies

Home care at the onset of a sunburn may just what you need. Most of the symptoms can be treated with the following at-home remedies:

  • Cool compresses and baths for immediate relief
  • Keep your house cool to improve air circulation
  • Soothe the skin by applying lotions with aloe vera
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water or water with electrolytes
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Apply OTC creams to relieve pain, itch, and swelling

Practical tips to avoid sun poisoning:

  • Stay out of the sun, avoid between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.

Many years ago, the ozone layer has been providing a blanket of protection against the damaging UV rays of the sun. The thinning of the ozone layer in the atmosphere now make UV rays reach the earth and its inhabitants more easily. And if you happen to be at the beach at noontime, stay under a shady area.

  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF

The best time to apply sunscreen is at least 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. You need to reapply every 2 hours if you are sweating and in the water. Sunscreens provide protection by absorbing and scattering the sun’s rays.

  • Use sunglasses with UV protection, head covering, and protective clothing

A loose-fitting garment made from tightly woven fabric is considered best protective clothing. In addition, dark colors may offer more protection than light-colored clothing.

As a day in the sun will mostly be associated with memories of joy and fun, you must consider certain dangers that may happen to you and your loved one. The threat of skin poisoning will always be there but, prevention is better than cure. By guiding your family how to have fun in the sun safely will make a great deal of difference. Say no to skin poisoning and have fun in the sun!

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