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- Sun poisoning is a term for a severe sunburn and if your skin is extremely red, blistering, and peeling, you might have it.
- Other symptoms of sun poisoning include feeling faint, feeling nauseous, or having a fever. If you’re experiencing them, you should immediately seek medical care.
- Taking simple precautions such as wearing and reapplying plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and also wearing protective clothing can help you avoid sun poisoning.
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Most people have had the uncomfortable experience of a sunburn at some point in their lives. But sun poisoning, which is a popular term rather than an actual medical diagnosis, is an especially severe sunburn that can cause painful complications.
INSIDER spoke to Dr. Kathleen Suozzi, the director of the Aesthetic Dermatology Program and an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, to learn more about sun poisoning.
Here are some common signs of sun poisoning that you should be aware of plus tips for avoiding it.
Keep in mind that although knowing the warning signs of sun poisoning can be useful, if you are experiencing an extremely severe sunburn you may want to seek professional medical assistance.
If your sunburn is severe your skin may blister and peel
“Severe sunburns are characterized by intense redness, called erythema, that evolves to blistering and later to peeling of the skin, called desquamation,” said Suozzi.
If your sunburn is severe, your body may struggle to regulate its temperature
Suozzi told INSIDER that if the desquamation of your skin is fairly severe (meaning it covers a large portion of your skin’s surface), you may experience some additional complications. One of these complications may make your body unable to properly maintain its normal temperature, she said.
Per WebMD, for adults, a normal body temperature is between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. For children and infants, the normal temperature typically falls between 97.9 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If your body’s temperature is too high or low, you may experience some flu-like symptoms such as the cold sweats or shivers.
Sun poisoning can also throw off your electrolytes and cause you to experience additional flu-like symptoms
“If a person feels ill after severe sunburn, i.e. [is] confused, feels faint, has severe chills, nausea, or vomiting, they should seek immediate medical care as these might be signs of a systemic reaction to the sunburn,” Suozzi told INSIDER.
She also said that “abnormalities in electrolytes” are another symptom of sun poisoning that can cause some unpleasant side effects. Electrolytes play a major role in helping your body function, so when they’re off you might experience symptoms such as lethargy or muscle cramping.
Sun poisoning can also make you prone to developing infections
Suozzi told INSIDER that the eroded surface of one’s skin that results from sun poisoning can be prone to infection.
Per WebMD, some of the signs your skin may be infected include pus or fluid leaking from the eroded skin surface, sores that resemble blisters, and pain or swelling that worsens after a few days. If you notice any symptoms of infection, you’ll want to seek medical attention immediately.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can avoid experiencing sun poisoning
By taking some very small steps before you go out in the sun, you can hopefully enjoy time outdoors without risking your skin’s health. Per Suozzi, for starters, you’ll want to always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and wear protective clothing when you’re going to be exposed to the sun.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it’s best to seek out protective clothing with a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). Much like SPF on skin, UPF numbers represent how well a fabric blocks harmful UV rays from the sun.
Suozzi also said it’s important to reapply sunscreen after sweating, swimming, or spending two hours or more exposed to the sun.