June 4, 2019

Sun Smart: How to Identify and Treat Sun Poisoning

how to identity and treat sun poisoning - mission healthYou’ve heard the term, but do you know what sun poisoning is? “Basically, sun poisoning is a bad sunburn,” said David Mulholland, MD, a Family Medicine Physician with Mission Community Primary Care – Haywood. “It’s an inflammatory reaction to sun damage of the skin that can make you feel like you have the flu.”

What Is Sun Poisoning?

While sunburns are uncomfortable, sun poisoning takes discomfort to a new level. Symptoms may include severe dark redness of the skin, blistering and rapid peeling of the skin, and pain and itching with swelling of the affected skin, said Dr. Mulholland. “Sun poisoning can also cause dehydration, headaches, fever and chills, dizziness and lightheadedness with nausea.”

Cause and Effects

Just like a regular sunburn, sun poisoning is caused by excessive exposure to the sun and its UV rays. “The best treatment is to get out of the sun,” advised Dr. Mulholland. “Take ibuprofen and stay well hydrated; you can also use soothing skin lotions and gels such as aloe.”

Also be aware if any drugs you’re currently taking may produce an adverse sun reaction. “Certain medications can cause a sensitivity to UV radiation, such as thiazide diuretics, tetracycline-type antibiotics, certain NSAIDS, fluoroquinolones and sulfonamides,” said Dr. Mulholland.

When to Seek Help

If sun poisoning symptoms are severe or persist, seek medical attention. And don’t underestimate the danger of sun exposure. “The sun is very likely the most carcinogenic (cancer causing) agent that most people will encounter regularly throughout their lives,” said Dr. Mulholland.

Preventing Sun Poisoning

  • Limit sun exposure, particularly when UV rays are strongest (10 am – 4 pm)
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with 30+ SPF; generously cover areas such as the nose, ears and neck; and reapply every two hours or more frequently when in water
  • Wear hats and clothing with SPF protection
  • Know the potential sun interactions of your medications

David Mulholland, MD, is a Family Medicine Physician with Mission Community Primary Care – Haywood.

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