Signs of sun poisoning

Concerned about your latest sunburn? If you are experiencing a particularly severe sunburn it’s possible you have sun poisoning, a fairly common condition which afflicts many people around the world every year. The condition isn’t actually “poisoning,” however, so you probably don’t have much to worry about. Here are some of the signs of sun poisoning to be alert for. There are three different types, but most people who get this skin problem only have a severe sunburn.

Severe sunburn is characterized by itchy or painful red-tinted skin which may peel or blister. There are also symptoms not directly associated with the skin to watch out for like dehydration, headache, nausea, fever, or fatigue. If any of your symptoms are particularly intense, you should see a doctor, but most cases of severe sunburn can be treated easily in your own home. So if you’re displaying any of these signs, get yourself indoors and out of the sunlight and step into a cool bath or shower or use cool compresses to cool yourself down. This will have the added benefit of hydrating your skin, which is one step in recovering. You should also drink some extra fluids in the coming days (starting immediately) so as to rehydrate your entire body. Finally, put on some moisturizer, preferably Aloe Vera, so that you can speed up the healing of your affected areas. Cover up before going outdoors again so that you heal quickly and efficiently. Take preventative measures in the future.

If you have other signs of sun poisoning, you could have polymorphous light eruption (PMLE) or solar urticaria (sun allergy). Both are less common; PMLE is characterized by small bumps which show up in dense clusters or all over the body, and sometimes hives which appear on the legs, arms and chest. Sun allergy is characterized by blisters or wheals and sometimes dizziness, confusion or faintness. PMLE and sun allergy both present with all the other symptoms discussed in the description of severe sunburn signs.

Should you be worried if you have signs of PMLE or sun allergy? Not necessarily; PMLE usually clears up within ten days, and may just be the result of acclimatizing to a new area if you’ve recently moved. PMLE may go away on its own and not recur—or you may need to see a doctor for treatment, but prognosis is good. Sun allergy is pretty rare, but also very treatable. If you think you may have PMLE or sun allergy you may want to see a doctor even if signs and symptoms aren’t severe just to get a diagnosis and start a treatment for the long term. PMLE may reverse itself over the long run or it may not—but most of your signs and symptoms should fade away on their own each time you develop sun poisoning. Sun poisoning may sound like a scary idea, but it’s rarely as bad as you think, and the majority of cases can be dealt with at home.

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