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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, peel, and itch.
  • Most sunburns are mild and can provide relief and be treated 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,
    • using 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 causing sunburn.
  • Persons with certain pigment disorders (albinism, lupus, porphyrias, vitiligo, and xeroderma pigmentosum) and individuals with fair skin are at most risk of sunburn.
  • 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 high body temperature (hyperthermia) that is life-threatening.
Return to Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Angie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 17

When I was in my early 20s, I got a severe sunburn (sun poisoning). Besides the excruciating pain of the burn itself, it caused me to retain fluids in my body. My face was so swollen that a close friend couldn't recognize me. I could not move my arms because of the fluid build-up. I had to have help getting dressed and doing other things. It was awful and it took several weeks before all of the symptoms were resolved.

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Comment from: babs, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 07

As a child I got sunburns that caused blisters, chills, fever, dehydration. As a teenager I thought I'd not get them any more cause I was tanning but not so I got burns that blistered, chills, dehydration, flu-like symptoms, and felt going to sleep. When I was older I thought I shouldn't get burned anymore because I knew how to cover up, ya right. I still get sunburns and some worse than others. The sun hates me!

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Comment from: brian77, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: July 06

I had a reaction to sunburn last week that lead me to the ER. It felt like someone was shocking me with a stun gun. The pain was so intense they gave me so many pain killers to help and nothing was working. I had it happen once before and it's the worse pain I've ever felt.

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