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What is Happening to Your Body When You Get Sun Poisoning?

What is Happening to Your Body When You Get Sun Poisoning?

Sun poisoning is a skin reaction that occurs after long exposure to sunlight. Understanding sun poisoning is important in order to know how to prevent it and how to treat it. Sun poisoning is similar to sunburn, which makes it difficult to identify correctly in some cases. Also, sun poisoning is a relatively unknown and uncommon condition. However, it can have serious and long-term complications if not treated properly. Here are the causes and symptoms of sun poisoning, and how to treat and prevent it.

What are the symptoms of sun poisoning?

With sun poisoning, you may first experience symptoms of regular sunburn. The symptoms can appear within 6 to 12 hours of exposure to UV rays. It’s very important to distinguish between the symptoms of a sun rash, sunburn, and sun poisoning.

Sun rash

A sun rash develops from sun exposure, sun poisoning, or exposure to outdoor plants such as parsnip. The resulting symptoms of a sun rash reaction look like a widespread red rash. It’s also extremely itchy. The rash can develop small bumps that look like hives. Sun allergies occur regularly from sun exposure and may need regular treatment from a dermatologist. A sun rash that develops from sun poisoning is more of an isolated event that needs medical attention.

Mild sunburn

In cases of mild sunburn, you might experience redness, pain, and swelling. Sunburn eventually heals on its own, although applying aloe vera gel can help soothe your skin. Sometimes a cold bath or pain relievers can relieve discomfort, as well. Eventually, sunburn heals on its own without any significant complications.

Symptoms of sun poisoning

Sun poisoning is significantly worse than mild sunburn. In addition to the usual sunburn-like symptoms, you might experience:

  • blistering or peeling skin
  • severe redness and pain
  • fever
  • dehydration
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headaches
  • dizziness

Preventing Sun Poisoning

Follow the basics of sun safety:

  • Wear a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 and says "broad-spectrum" on the label. It means that it protects against the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Put it on all over about 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun.
  • Limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and remember that water, snow, and sand can intensify the sun's damaging rays.
  • Wear sunglasses, a hat, and protective clothing.

Can sunburns cause skin cancer or other skin problems?

Yes! Sunburn early in life increases the risk of developing skin cancer later. Overexposure to UV rays can cause three varieties of skin cancer:

  • Malignant melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer that can cause death.
  • Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are very common, and if diagnosed properly and promptly, are curable. It is very important to have routine skin checks by a skin doctor (dermatologist) annually. Annual screening can help in early diagnosis of skin cancer or pre-cancerous conditions that may lead to skin cancer.

In most cases of sun poisoning, the condition will pass with time and self-care. However, seeing a doctor is highly recommended. If the affected area of skin is large or covers several parts of the body, it is recommended that medical advice is sought. Even when the sun poisoning is mild, seeking a doctor's opinion can ensure that it is treated properly. This can prevent complications, and ease symptoms faster.