Published On: Sat, Jul 6th, 2013

The Serious Side of Sun Poisoning

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With the weather having warmed up and summer officially here, the time has come to shed the pale pallor of winter in favor of some much needed sun. However, spending too much time outside without taking the proper precautions could set you up to suffer from sun poisoning.

Despite what the name suggests, sun poisoning doesn’t actually mean you’ve been poisoned, but serves as a commonly used term for a case of severe sunburn. What separates sun poisoning from a typical sun burn is the sever symptoms that accompany the condition. Sun poisoning can quickly progress into sun stroke, a potentially deadly condition, if not properly treated. To help you stay safe this summer season, here’s what you need to know about avoiding sun poisoning.

Sun Poisoning Symptoms

In just under 15 minutes of spending time outdoors, you can suffer a sunburn even if you don’t immediately realize it right away. The discomfort and redness you associate with sunburn may not appear for several hours following your sun exposure. Failing to recognize that you have already suffered a sunburn can lead you to stay outside long enough for the sunburn to progress into sun poisoning, which occurs more often with individuals with fair skin and light hair.

Sun poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Blistering and skin redness
  • Pain and tingling
  • Swelling
  • Headaches
  • Chills and fever
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration

While some of these symptoms may take time to manifest, you should never ignore feelings of dizziness or swelling when outside, and need to take shelter out of the sunlight.

Treatments for Sun Poisoning

For the majority of sun poisoning cases, these simple remedies will generally help easy any symptoms.

  • Get out of the sun immediately
  • Take a cool, but not cold shower or bath, and then apply a cold compress to the worse affected areas
  • Drink additional fluids for several days following the sun poisoning
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help alleviate the pain
  • Use gel that contains aloe to help reduce dryness and inflammation
  • Completely cover any affected areas when going back outside until redness subsides

In a few cases, you may need to seek immediate medical attention to treat the more severe symptoms of the sun poisoning, including:

  • A burn that covers a large area, forms blisters, or cause intense pain
  • Swelling of the facial area
  • Chills and fever
  • Nausea
  • Faintness, light-headedness, disorientation, or migraine
  • Extreme dehydration

Preventing Sun Poisoning

By practicing basic sun safety, you can easy reduce your risk of suffering from sun poisoning. Always wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF whenever heading outside for extended period of time. Try to limit your time outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The sun’s UV light is more severe around sunrise or sunset than during the middle of the afternoon. Wear loose fitting clothing that covers any exposed skin, such as your arms and legs, and a wide brim hat that will keep the sun off your face when outside.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Greg Williams, a Tigard dentist.

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