The sun is good for you. You need to get some of the rays in the day to get the vitamin D. But at the same time, it is bad for your skin. You’ll know that the UVB rays can cause burning and skin damage, while the UVA rays are linked to cancer and speeding up the aging process.
While you’ll hear of the damage as “sun damage,” you may have heard of the term “sun poisoning.” It is not poisoning in the way that you would initially believe it to be. This is not like taking in arsenic and other chemicals that can kill you on the spot. Sun poisoning refers to damaging sunburn and other health issues linked to the UV rays.
Before you jump to conclusions or stop getting any sun at all, make sure you’re aware of all the facts surrounding sun poisoning. These will help you protect your health.
Anyone Can Be Poisoned by the Sun
Sun poisoning can start within the first 15 minutes of being in the sun. Other people may not be affected for 30 minutes or more. It will depend on the type of skin you have. Those with darker skin are less likely to suffer from severe sun poisoning just moments after exposure.
You won’t necessarily know that you’ve been poisoned right away. Sun poisoning is sunburn, which can take hours for it to show up. There may be some burning sensations or the feeling of heat radiating from your skin, but you may not actually get the full list of symptoms for hours afterward.
Does this mean you should not go out in the sun at all? Not. The sun is the best source of vitamin D and you need that to support the health of your bones, teeth, muscles, and more. Vitamin D helps to avoid calcium crystallizing in the body, along with offering other health benefits. Getting 15 minutes of sun exposure without any protection is one of the best ways to get your daily vitamin D intake.
If you are going to be out in the sun for longer than the 15 minutes, you’ll need to wear some sort of protection. A good sunscreen is the best way to help keep your skin exposed without suffering from the damage. Those who are light skinned and fair-haired will have skin that is more prone to sun poisoning than those with both dark skin and hair.
Knowing You Have Sun Poisoning
Sun poisoning is classed as severe sunburn. So that little redness that you’ve had after being in the skin is not necessarily poisoning. However, if your skin makes you look like a lobster and starts to blister, you’ve suffered from sun poisoning.
This severity of sunburn is more common than you would initially think. Often it is just the top layer of skin that blisters, but sometimes the lower layers can also be affected. After blistering, the skin will start to peel.
Many people with severe sunburn will also experience some tingling and pain in the nerves. The nerves and cells are damaged and killed. They need to repair and that leads to the tingling sensation while the new skin appears. Swelling can also appear, as the immune system attempts to help.
Some symptoms of sun poisoning are not directly linked to the skin. You may experience some headaches and dizziness, as well as dehydration. The skin is not the only part that suffers from extreme sun exposure. You can sweat more and not replace fluids and suffer from sunstroke. You’ll need to top up your fluids and relax indoors away from the sun.
In more extreme cases, you may also suffer from fever and chills. The body temperature struggles to regulate when you’re dealing with the sun damage to the skin.
Some of the symptoms you may experience before seeing the sunburn appear. You can feel the tingling sensation in the skin while feeling dizzy and dehydrated. As soon as you start experiencing any of the symptoms, you want to act. Get yourself indoors and away from the sun. You can also help by taking a cool shower to help lower your body temperature and ease some of the sensations that you feel. Do not forget to drink extra fluids.
What to Do When You Get Sun Poisoning
Acting immediately is the best way to ease the symptoms and recover quickly from your sun poisoning. The good news is that there are steps you can take before you even see many of the physical symptoms. The tips above can be followed if you have any inclination that you have sun poisoning. Even if you do not, you’re not going to harm your body with a cool shower, time indoors, and more fluids.
When you start showing symptoms, you’ll need to act to cool your skin. Avoid cold and only opt for cool. Cold can cause a major disruption in your temperature and because freezer burn damage to your skin. Cool will help to pull the temperature down and ease the pain and the swelling. While you cannot sit in a bath the whole time, you can apply cool compresses to the affected areas.
Aloe gel and moisturizer are extremely good. The aloe is the best since it contains vitamin E, which is known for helping to ease pain and discomfort. It helps to reduce swelling, repair tissue, and support the health of your skin. Moisturizing creams with added vitamin E or aloe is also good. Creams on their own will help to at least add moisture back into the skin. The heat will take it out, making the burning sensation and redness worse.
If you need to reduce swelling, ibuprofen can help. Tylenol or other similar products can help to ease the pain but not inflammation. You can also use herbal remedies to reduce the swelling and inflammation. Cool compresses and aloe are just the starts. Create a paste with a yogurt base. The proteins in the yogurt will help to improve the health of the tissue and cells within the skin.
Avoid citrus fruits. While they are good for vitamin C, the acids will burn the skin further and cause more pain.
Never rub your moisturizer or creams into your skin. You want to allow your skin to soak them in slowly. You may find the skin too tender to touch, so use plenty of cream. Do not worry about a layer of it visible on your skin. Just give your skin plenty of time to absorb it all in and hydrate the skin again.
The next time you go outside, make sure your skin remains completely covered. The skin is raw and tender and will be more susceptible to sun poisoning again.
What Serious Symptoms Should You Look Out For?
While the symptoms above are serious, there are others that you need to look out for as they may require medical attention. You have seriously burned the skin with sun poisoning and your body will need to be treated for that.
Blisters need to be treated by a medical professional. If your sunburn covers a large area and has blistered, then you will certainly need to seek help. Medical professionals will be able to cover your blisters in case they pop. When popped, they can get infected and cause more problems within your skin.
Likewise, excessive and painful swelling can also be a sign of more serious problems linked to sun poisoning. Facial swelling should not happen and can lead to blocked airways. So, if this happens, you should seek medical attention right away.
In some cases, you will want to call a doctor if you have fevers and chills, confusion and faintness, and signs of dehydration. Fevers, especially in children, can lead to seizures and other health problems. They need to be pulled under control as soon as possible. Confusion and faintness can put you in dangerous situations at home and when out. You’ll know what your body is used to, but if you are ever concerned you should speak to a medical professional.
It Is Possible to Prevent Sun Poisoning
You can prevent sun poisoning from occurring at all. The best way is to use sunscreen when you go out in the sun. Look for a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. The higher the number, the better the protection for fair skin. If you have darker skin, you may be able to get away with a lower SPF.
Do not just look for protection against burning or just from the cancerous rays. Look out for “broad protection” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. This will give you an all-over protection.
While you want 15 minutes in the sun without protection, if you know you will be out for longer you should cover up right away. Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you plan to go out into the sun. This will give the sunscreen time to work on the layers of your skin and give you a deeper protection.
Take your sunscreen out with you. You’ll need to apply it every two to three hours for total protection. If you sweat a lot, then it will need to be applied more frequently.
Do not buy into the “waterproof” label. While there are some that can offer some protection in the water, you will still need to reapply the sunscreen when you get out.
Getting the right timing for sun exposure is the best way to avoid sun poisoning. The hours between 10 am and 2 pm is when the sun’s rays are the strongest and the heat is at the highest. You want to avoid exposure during these hours as much as possible. If you really cannot avoid going outside, make sure you’re covered and limit the time you’re out.
Being around water, sand, and snow intensifies the sun’s rays. Therefore, when you’re skiing or at the beach, you’re more likely to burn. The rays reflect from the bases and will hit your skin harsher than directly from the sun. If you are around these areas, limit the exposure to outside the hottest and strongest times of the day.
It is also possible to cover up the skin through clothing. Do not forget about your eyes and head with sunglasses and a hat.
Is Your Medication Causing a Problem?
In some cases, your medication can make your skin more photo-sensitive. This means it is more sensitive to the sunlight. The herbal remedies you use on your skin can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
For example, acne medications, lemon juice-based treatments, and other diuretics make your skin extremely sensitive. They can help to improve your tan, but they can also lead to more burning. If you use lemon juice to brighten and improve the look of your skin, apply it 30 minutes or more before you go out into the sun.
Other medications that affect your skin’s photo-sensitivity include antidepressants, antibiotics, birth control pills, and heart drugs. Most of the medications will include this risk on their packaging. If you’re not sure, you can talk to your doctor about them. While you cannot stop taking them, you will know to use sun protection more regularly when exposing your skin to the sun’s rays.
Are There Other Types of Sun Poisoning?
While sun poisoning is severe sunburn, it can also refer to the way the skin reacts to the sunlight. The skin can react in two ways:
- Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE)
- Solar urticaria
PMLE occurs in people who are exposed to more sun than they are used to. Drugs and health conditions have not affected them. Their skin just is not used to the intensity and reacts a lot quicker than the skin of people who are used to it will react. This is often the case for people who go on holiday to a climate that they are not used to.
Skin rash and burning are the most common reactions. People can also experience hives on their bodies and some clumps of bumps on areas that were exposed to the light. In most of cases, the symptoms will disappear after 10 days.
In some cases, PMLE affects Native Americans. This is an inherited form that can happen between spring and falls. Most people experience burning and itchiness, but can also later gain headaches, chills, and fatigue.
When it comes to solar urticaria, the symptoms will develop within minutes of the exposure and is more like an allergy to the sun. People experience redness, itchiness, hives, wheezing, and even loss of consciousness. Most of the time the problem will disappear after a few hours, but antihistamines may be needed.
For both types, steroids may be prescribed to help speed up the healing process. These are both less common than traditional sun poisoning.
Understand everything you can able sun poisoning. It happens more than you would imagine, and you’ve likely suffered from it at some point in your teenage years. Sun poisoning tends not to be treated seriously until blisters start to appear. It is essential that you protect your skin from damage and not just to avoid poisoning, but to protect against aging, cancer, and further health problems.