Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Sunburn and sun poisoning facts

  • Sunburn is an inflammation of the skin caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun.
  • UV radiation damages the skin and also can damage the eyes.
  • UV rays are most intense at noon and the hours immediately before and after (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  • Immediate symptoms of sunburn are hot, red, tender skin; pain when the skin is touched or rubbed; and dehydration; several days after exposure the skin may swell, blister, and peel.
  • Most sunburns are mild and can be treated with home remedies such as applying damp cloths or compresses to reduce the pain, soaking in a tepid bath (with no soap), gently patting the skin dry, applying soothing creams or lotions, OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol or others, and moisturizing the skin.
  • Sunburn may cause permanent skin damage and skin cancer (malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma).
  • UVB as well as UVA rays may cause damage to skin.
  • UV rays may bounce off water, sand, snow, and other surfaces.
  • Some types of skin tan after exposure to UV rays because after repeated or prolonged exposure to UV rays the skin produces more melanin.
  • Persons with certain pigment disorders and individuals with fair skin are at most risk of sunburn.
  • Certain diseases and conditions pose a higher risk of sunburn (for example, albinism, lupus, porphyrias, vitiligo, and xeroderma pigmentosum).
  • Some medications may increase sensitivity to sunburn (photosensitivity).
  • The best way to prevent sunburn is to avoid long exposure to sunlight.
  • Sunscreen and sun-protective clothing are important measures to limit sun damage.
  • Apply sunscreen before going outdoors, apply it liberally, and re-apply frequently.
  • Sun poisoning is caused by severe sunburn; its symptoms include fever, nausea, chills, dizziness, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, dehydration, and shock.
  • Heat stroke is a severe form of hyperthermia that is life-threatening.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Sunburn - Experience Question: Have you ever experienced a really bad sunburn? What was it like?
Sunburn - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your sunburn?
Sunburn - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your sunburn?
Sunburn - Home Remedies Question: Please share home remedies for treating a sunburn.
Sunburn (Sun Poisoning) - Applying Sunscreen Question: Share tips for applying sunscreen, including how to remember to apply it after swimming.

10 Home Remedies for Sunburn Treatment

Check out our top 10 tips to cool that sunburn!

  1. Place a cool compress on sunburned skin.
  2. Take a cool shower or bath.
    • Add one cup of cider vinegar to a bath to help balance the pH (acid or alkalinity) of sunburned skin, and promote healing.
    • Soak in an oatmeal bath. This is especially helpful for itchy sunburned skin.
  3. Use lotions that contain aloe Vera to soothe and moisturize skin. Some aloe products contain lidocaine, an anesthetic that can help relieve sunburn pain....