Ah the sun. That great yellow orb we see just about every day. The sun can either be our best friend or our worst enemy. While it is essential to get a sufficient amount of daily vitamin D to stay healthy, (and we can get our vitamin D from the sun), we don’t want to overdo it with sun exposure. Spending some time in the sun is healthy. Spending too much time in the sun is definitely unhealthy.
The tricky part is, different peoples’ bodies respond to sunlight differently. We cannot give a general estimation of how much sunlight is “enough” sunlight or how much sunlight is “too much” sunlight. It will differ significantly for each individual. And it will also depend on where the individual is located. Sun exposure is not necessarily a huge concern for most of the people living in, say, Maine. But it’s something to think about if you’re in Florida.
Let’s say one spends too much time in the sun, regardless of where they live or what their body’s tolerance of sun exposure is. They spent too much time in the sun, and now they’re trying to figure out how to treat sunburn symptoms.
What is Sun Poisoning?
Sun poisoning is another term for sunburn. But, contrary to popular belief, sunburn is more than just a burn from the sun’s rays. It is an over-exposure to what is in the sun’s rays. A sunburn is a form of radiation exposure, as it is the radiation particles within the sun’s rays that causes the sun to have its effect on our skin and bodies. A little bit of exposure each day is healthy, because there are also healthy nutrients in the sun’s rays (like vitamin D). However, too much exposure to the sun is harmful both in the short term and in the long term.
WebMD1 has a fitting and straightforward definition for sun poisoning. “Sun poisoning doesn’t really mean you’ve been poisoned. It is often the term used for a severe case of sunburn. This is usually a burn from ultraviolet (UV) radiation that inflames your skin.”
What are the Symptoms of Sun Poisoning?
One of the reasons why people become sunburned is because they do not notice the symptoms of sunburn occurring on their skin right away. Unlike accidentally grabbing a hot pan or touching a hot stove, (which produces an instant reaction), a sunburn is not an immediately noticeable phenomenon. One might spend several hours in the sun before noticing symptoms. But by then, the damage is already done.
Once symptoms begin to appear, people who suffer from overexposure to the sun will notice:
- Redness and discomfort within the skin
- Sensitive skin
- Discomfort when showering or bathing in hot water
- Chills, fever, nausea, or even vomiting
- Other flu-like symptoms
- Blistering and peeling of the skin (2nd degree sunburn)
- An itchy skin rash
- Hives, small bumps, or dense clumps of bumps on the skin
- Headache, confusion, or general disorientation (also a symptom of dehydration from sun exposure)
The online resource eMedicine Health2 offers plenty of advice on sunburns, sun poisoning, symptoms, and treatments.
Treating a Sunburn – Prevention is the Best Medicine
As simple as it might sound, the best method for treating a sunburn is to prevent sunburn from occurring. Medical News Today3 offers these four simple steps to avoiding sunburn/sun poisoning:
- Reduce exposure. The best way to prevent sunburn is to reduce and avoid exposure to the sun. Sun poisoning is a direct cause and effect condition. One can only receive sun poisoning if one exposes oneself to the sun. Reduce exposure, reduce sunburn.
- Use sun lotion. When going out in the sun for an extended period, the best preventive is to cover exposed areas of the skin with sun lotion (also called sunscreen). High-factor sunscreen (sunscreen with a high “SPF” or “Sun Protection Factor”) can be useful in preventing the sun’s rays from damaging the skin.
- Be aware of the side effects of medication. Some medications can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. One should always read all of the warning labels on all medicines and ensure that proper measures are taken should such meds increase skin sensitivity.
- Avoid tanning beds. The sun isn’t the only source of sun poisoning. Though tanning beds are certainly legal and used often, their use is not medically recommended. Tanning beds can cause sunburn. People who are trying to avoid excessive sun exposure should also avoid tanning beds.
Suffering from a Sunburn? What You Can Do to Alleviate Symptoms
Sunburns are relatively frequent, especially for those who spend a lot of time outside. Thankfully, there is much that we can do to alleviate symptoms.
- Apply aloe vera cream, whether an organic face cream or an all-natural skin cream, to the affected area or areas.
- Take cool showers or apply cold compresses to the skin.
- Topical antibiotics can be used to prevent infection.
- Drink extra water. Sunburns dehydrate the skin. Drinking extra water helps to rehydrate the skin.
- According to the American Academy of Dermatology4, “Wear clothing that covers your skin when outdoors. Tightly-woven fabrics work best. When you hold the fabric up to a bright light, you shouldn’t see any light coming through.”
Perhaps the most critical concern relating to sunburns is the risk of long-term damage that such burns create. According to Healthline5, “Another complication of sun poisoning may not appear until long after the burning, blisters, and pain have gone away. People who experience severe sunburns are at a higher risk of developing premature wrinkles and skin spots later in life. Your risk for skin cancer may also increase.”
When to Seek Medical Care
We cannot give medical advice on this subject, but many people wonder if they should seek medical attention for a sunburn. In the same article cited earlier, Medical News Today offers this advice on sunburns and the question of seeking medical care:
“In most cases of sun poisoning, the condition will pass with time and self-care. However, in some instances, seeing a doctor is recommended. If the affected area of skin is large or covers several parts of the body, it is recommended that medical advice is sought. Even when the sun poisoning is mild, seeking a doctor’s opinion can ensure that it is treated properly. This can prevent complications and ease symptoms faster.”— Medical News Today
It’s essential to take good care of our skin. Our skin is our most prominent feature, in a way. It’s also our first defense against the outside world. We want it to look great and to feel great too. And with a combination of preventive care and the use of organic skin lotions and face creams, we can keep our skin healthy for years to come.