Sun Poisoning

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Have you ever had a firey-hot sunburn? This is the type of burn that just hurts constantly, and every movement you make, or even think of making, is painful to the point of feeling like your skin is ripping off. If you ever have, you still have not experienced sun poisoning. Sun poisoning is a terrible sunburn like the one described above, but with some additional symptoms:

  • Blistering/peeling
  • Vomiting
  • Persistent chills
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • It is imperative to intervene in a case of sun poisoning. First, get the person out of the sun, and into a cool place. Next, call 911. Follow the directions that the emergency dispatcher gives you. If there is no way to immediately call 911 or call an ambulance, the following steps can be taken:

  • Get the person to a cool place

  • Try to give sips of cool water or water mixed with 1 tsp baking soda (be careful if there is vomiting - otherwise water may be inhaled into the lungs)

  • Elevate legs and lower the head to get the blood back to the heart and pumping into the brain

  • Lightly cover the victim, but do not use a heavy blanket - this will raise the temperature too high
  • Remember that these are only stop-gap measures. It is vital to get the person who is suffering symptoms of sun poisoning into the hands of experienced emergency personnel as quickly as possible to prevent shock. Perhaps more important than knowing how to treat sun poisoning is knowing how to prevent it. The very young and very old are generally more susceptible to sunburn and therefore to sun poisoning.

    Also, fair-skinned people burn much more easily than their darker-skinned counterparts. Certain drugs can also exacerbate the effects of sunlight on exposed skin. Warnings to this effect are usually printed on medication bottles and patient literature, but asking the doctor or pharmacist is also a good idea when receiving a new prescription drug. In general, to avoid the possibility of sunburn and therefore sun poisoning:

  • Always apply sun block to all exposed areas of skin, including the tops of ears (This does not apply to children under the age of 6 months. Babies should stay out of the sun and/or have protective clothing instead.) Swimmers should reapply sun block every 2 or 3 hours
  • The higher the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) in a sunblock, the better protection is given

  • Wear a hat and stay in the shade as much as possible

  • Avoid the peak skin burning hours of 10AM - 3PM
  • Wear protective clothing - light, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tighter weaved cloth is best. If you are swimming, make sure to wear a cover-up and a hat when not in the water

  • Wear sunglasses that block 100% of ultraviolet (UV) rays
  • Sun poisoning is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know experience its symptoms, medical intervention is necessary; otherwise, death is a real possibility. Use caution when you know you will be in the sun but remember, prevention is the best treatment of all.