Sun Poisoning Explained by Doctors Who Treat It

It’s the time of year for sun poisoning. In most parts of the country, going outside during peak summer feels like stepping into a sauna. Braving the heat for a cookout, tennis match, or just to walk the dog can lead anyone to wonder if they’re going to get a extreme sunburn, sometimes called sun poisoning, before they can get back inside.

Of course, you apply sunscreen and cover your skin when you’re under some serious UV rays. But everyone else should know how to handle a bad sunburn, and be familiar with the signs of heat stroke.

What is sun poisoning?

Anything with the word “poison” in it is pretty ominous. But while sun poisoning is no joke, you can’t technically be diagnosed with it. Rosanne Paul, DO, an assistant professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University, explains that sun poisoning isn’t a genuine medical term, but is widely understood to be a severe sunburn that causes a systemic reaction in the body with symptoms similar to a viral illness like the flu. “The UV rays are not ‘poisoning’ you, but sun poisoning means that the skin did get damaged, causing dehydration,” she says.

Dermatologist and founder of Sandia Dermatology Deeptej Singh, MD, also describes sun poisoning as a severe sunburn. He explains that sun poisoning goes beyond the redness, discomfort, and peeling skin associated with sunburns. It includes these symptoms but also includes other symptoms unrelated to what your skin looks like. The symptoms of sun poisoning can include headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, and even a change in mental state.

Heather Hinshelwood, MD, the co-owner and Chief of Medicine of The Fraum Center on Hilton Head Island, has seen her fair share of sun poisoning. Not only has she lived in high sun areas her entire life (including Florida, Southern California, and South Carolina), she’s a former Marine who was deployed to Afghanistan. “Excess sun exposure and its complications is something we constantly fight in the military and here in the South,” she says.

Something Dr. Hinshelwood says many people don’t realize about sun poisoning is that it doesn’t always include getting sunburned. Your skin can be well-protected with proper clothing and SPF, but it’s the sheer heat that gets you. “Sun poisoning can be caused by a heat injury and can include heat strokes,” she says. A heat stroke occurs when the body overheats and its core temperature rises above 104 degrees. Its symptoms include a throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, fainting, and a fast heartbeat. It can be fatal.

The doctors explain that sun poisoning exists on a spectrum; sometimes it’s mild and sometimes it’s severe. “Blistering is a sign of mild sun poisoning,” Dr. Singh says. But he emphasizes that this doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. “It’s a big deal because even a single blistering sunburn at any point in your life increases your lifetime risk of developing skin cancer,” he says. This is especially pertinent considering that men are diagnosed with melanoma at a much higher rate than women.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top