Sunburn or Sun Poisoning - Symptoms, Treatment, Risks and More
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
If you have unprotected exposure to the sun, even on a cloudy day, a sunburn can develop. A common skin problem causes red, itchy, or tender areas. A more serious condition called sun poisoning can also happen. This severe sunburn can cause skin blistering, flu-like symptoms, and dehydration. An individual with sun poisoning may need medical care. Research suggests that having sunburn anytime in the past raises an individual’s risk of skin cancer. It also shows that even after sunburn symptoms go away, long-lasting effects of sun damage remain.
Sunburn vs. sun poisoning symptoms
Damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays can affect each person differently and impact every exposed body part, even your eyes. When the skin gets more UV exposure than it can handle, it causes inflammation. While the symptoms of sunburn are uncomfortable, they are usually mild and treatable at home. If you get sun poisoning, it does not mean you were ‘poisoned’ by the sun’s UV rays. It means that you have a severe sunburn.
Symptoms of sunburn start within minutes to hours of UV exposure from the sun. Common skin changes with a sunburn include:
Sunburn vs. sun poisoning risks
Anyone can get a sunburn, so it helps to know what increases your risk of developing it. Some factors that may place you at greater risk include:
How do I prevent sunburn?
According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. 1 out of every 5 Americans will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. Thankfully, sunburn, sun poisoning, and skin cancer are preventable conditions. To lower your risk for sunburn:
Sunburn vs. sun poisoning treatment
Respond quickly to the first signs of sunburn. Take the following steps to treat sunburn discomfort as soon as you can:
If your skin starts to blister, put a cold, damp cloth on the area. As mentioned, blisters help the skin to heal, so avoid picking at or popping them. Opening blisters can raise your risk for infection and skin scarring. While your skin is healing, avoid direct sun exposure and alcohol, stay well-hydrated, and wear loose, comfortable clothing. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label if you take any OTC medications, and contact your health care provider if you have any questions.
Remember, it is more severe if a baby or young child develops symptoms of sun poisoning. Call your pediatrician or seek medical care if your child develops blisters or experiences headaches, a fever, or nausea.
How long do sunburn and sun poisoning take to heal?
The good news is that sunburn symptoms will improve with time. However, the recovery time will vary person-to-person and depend on the severity of your burn. A sunburn will typically:
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