Sun Poisoning

What Is Sun Poisoning?

There are times when too much of something can be dangerous. This is true when it comes to sun exposure. At moderate amounts exposure to the sun is healthy, however too much of it can be harmful. Not only does it lead to skin problems like wrinkles and dark spots, but it may also bring about sun poisoning. Despite its name, this does not occur like typical poisoning. Instead, the toxins enter the body through the skin.

Also known as photodermatitis, sun poisoning is a type of allergic contact dermatitis that occurs after prolonged sun exposure. As a result of the power rays of the sun, its ultraviolet or UV rays are able to penetrate the skin. It can go beneath the outer layer of dead cells and kill healthy cells beneath it. When this happens sunburn takes place. Excessive amounts of sunburn result in sun poisoning.

What Happens?

Often, sun burns and photodermatitis do not manifest immediately. It may take a few hours for the system to react to the burning, which is why the burn may only be felt after a few hours. As a result of the attack on the skin cells the body reacts by causing the immune system to enlarge blood vessels and increase blood flow to the skin enabling white blood cells to repair the damage. In turn, this causes the skin to become red and feel warm.

In the case of sun poisoning, more than just slight reddening and warmness of the skin can be observed since it is severe sunburn. This may cause the skin to become inflamed and develop an itchy rash that may break out in small blisters. It is also common for those with sun poisoning to feel a burning sensation on the affected areas. As it progresses it is common for the skin to peel as well.

This is all accompanied by other symptoms that may include fever, chills, headache, nausea, dizziness, fainting, rapid breathing and increased heart rate. In more severe cases dehydration and shock may also occur.


Luckily, in cases where sun poisoning is not severe it can be treated easily. One of the first things that need to be done is to get out of the sun. Body temperature should also be lowered and the burning stopped. This can be done by taking a cool shower. It should be noted that water temperatures are not cold as not to introduce too much of a sudden change.

It is also important to rehydrate the body by drinking lots of fluids. This should be done even if dehydration is not a symptom. Topical skin products made for treating sunburn may also be applied to the skin to help ease any burning and itching. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug may also be taken to help ease the pain and deal with fever. In severe cases, it is always best to seek medical attention from a doctor or health care provider.

For more treatment options for sun poisoning, please refer to our post about “home remedies for sun poisoning”.