Treatment and Prevention of Sun Poisoning

Sun poisoning. It sounds as if something chemical is happening inside your body if you get sun poisoning. But it’s really just a scary-sounding way to say “a very bad sunburn.” There is really no “poisoning” involved.

So just what is it that makes a case of overexposure to the sun (or to tanning beds) deserving of the name “sun poisoning?” It is a matter of additional symptoms developing on top of those normally associated with sunburn. With a regular sunburn, you can expect to experience itching, redness, and peeling. If the burn is a bit worse, you may also suffer blisters. These blisters can pop, and expose the skin to potential infection. But with sun poisoning, you can also experience symptoms like nausea, fever, headache, and dizziness. You may also suffer from dehydration and an imbalance in your electrolytes.

If you are only suffering mild discomfort, treat sun poisoning as you would a regular sunburn. Make sure to drink enough water or sports drinks, and apply cold compresses to the burnt area to cool it down and reduce the pain. You can try applying some aloe, but make sure not to use anything which has irritating fragrances, exfoliants, or other such ingredients which are common to standard lotions.

If, on the other hand, you suffer some of the more severe symptoms, you should bathe in cool water to reduce your temperature, and drink plenty of liquids. Make sure to pat yourself dry and never rub. If you begin to suffer extreme pain, or you get a fever which rises to over 104°F, it’s time to go to the emergency room. The doctors there can prescribe oral steroids to stop inflammation, and if you are dehydrated, they can give you an IV to get enough fluids into you.

A related condition is called polymorphous light eruption. Even though some consider this to be a sun poisoning rash, this can occur in the absence of sunburn. This rash is a result of a bad reaction to UV light, and can result in hives and/or blisters. Its other symptoms are similar to those of sun poisoning. Treatment for the rash is the same as for a sunburn. People from the northern hemisphere are most frequently affected, and sensitivity to the UV light is usually highest in spring or early summer, when those in that area of the earth are not yet used to being exposed to much sunlight. Fortunately, this extra sensitivity usually goes away within a few days.

Prevention is fairly straightforward for most people — wear a decent amount of sunscreen, and cover up sensitive areas. If you are taking some kind of medication, check to see if it increases UV sensitivity, and if it does, take extra precautions to protect yourself from the sun. With these commonsense precautions, most people should be able to enjoy their time in the sun without getting either sunburns or sun poisoning.

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February 13, 2012
Posted in Health — Knowledge Buff @ 5:53 PM

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