Sun poisoning, also known as sunburn, is the highest degree of burns caused by exposure to the sun. Though it looks simpler, it might possibly cause a huge damage if not treated properly. This sun poisoning usually starts as a regular sunburn and hence people tend to ignore the initial symptoms.
Some people have really sensitive skin, especially the fair-skinned people who have had less exposure to sun in their lifetime. Also, the people that have low melanin are more prone to sun poisoning. Melanin is a pigment that absorbs UV light and also sometimes forms a protective skin layer to protect it. This production is usually higher in the case of people with darker skin tones. This sun poisoning can happen on any part of the body and sun poisoning on the lips is very painful. This poisoning is also known as photodermatitis or photoallergy and causes severe rashes by exposure to the sun for a long time.
What is a Sun Poisoning Rash?
The sun poisoning rash is the after effects of the sun poisoning. Usually, the people that are sensitive to the sun get sunburnt. In some cases, the sunburn takes a bad shape and turns into sun poisoning. The normal sunburn may cause things like facial swelling, swollen eyes, swollen ankles, itchy eyelids, painful skin etc. but the sun poisoning has a lot more effects like headache, nausea, rashes, vomiting etc.
Rashes are the main and the first thing that is noticed in the case of sun poisoning. This rash is mainly a red bump on the skin that has been burnt by the excessive exposure to sun. In some people, it takes as less as fifteen minutes to develop sun poisoning rashes. This rash is itchy, red, bumpy and sometimes might lead to blisters that have pus filled in it. This holds true especially in the case of sun poisoning on the lips. In some cases, extreme itching of the rash might lead to bruising which might leave scars on the skin. The sun poisoning rash can also be followed by facial swelling, bumps on arms, extreme itching on chest and feet, inflammation in the eyelids with swollen eyes, cold sores, diarrhea, fever and much more.
In the extreme cases, the rash might lead to skin cancer if the skin has been exposed to the light for a long duration of time. The bumps formed on the skin are usually in clusters and the areas including chest, legs and the arms may give out hives like appearance. The skin swells and there is a slight pain and tingling sensation in the mild case of sun poisoning. If the symptoms like diarrhea, fever, dehydration, headache happens, consultation of a doctor becomes the most important thing. The bumps and the rashes later dry out and the skin starts crusting and cracking. In many cases, the cracked areas tend to bleed and are very painful.
Causes of Sun Poisoning
The main cause of the sun poisoning rash in the people is the lack of melanin that saves us from the effects of the harmful ultraviolet rays. This pigment is the lowest in case of fair-skinned people. Because of this pigment, the people with darker skin tones are the ones that rarely get sun poisoning in comparison to the ones with a fairer skin tone. Melanin is also responsible for giving color to the skin, eyes and hair in all the mammals including humans. Also, the people who are rarely exposed to the sun are more at risk of getting harmed by the ultraviolet rays.
In some individuals, the skin is more sensitive to anything around them and this is usually inherited. But in some cases, the external factors are also responsible for things like these. More the exposure to sun, more severe is the sun poisoning. There are also some drugs that may lead to the skin becoming more sensitive in the case of many people like thiazide diuretics, hexachlorophene, sulfa, lemon oil, musk ambrette, benzoyl peroxide, photoreactive dyes and much more. These chemicals are present in the day-to-day products like perfumes, sunscreens, antibiotics, dyes etc. and one should check the ingredients before using any such products.
There are some plants which may also lead to the sun poisoning. For example, Giant Hogweed Sap if comes in contact with the skin, makes it more susceptible to the harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays. Similarly, a common garden plant, Common Rue, is also responsible for sun poisoning and rashes. Even if you have a non-sensitive skin, continuous exposure to sunlight can cause sun poisoning. So, it is advisable to stay safe and take preventive measures beforehand.
Effects of Sun Poisoning
The blisters are the very first effects of sun poisoning. These blisters can occur at any part of the body including the chest, arms and legs. They are very painful and usually filled with pus. These blisters when dry out cause extreme itching and might leave scars on the skin if burst. These usually form clusters with dry and taut skin surrounding them.
Rashes are formed after the skin gets an extreme case of sun poisoning. Rashes are like the skin’s allergic reaction to the harmful ultraviolet rays present in the sunlight. At first, the red patches on the skin are formed which later turn into small itchy bumps. The rash usually cover the whole body and are painful. They need special medical attention to get cured.
In the case of severe sunburns, things like rashes, blisters and swelling happen on the skin and are mostly very painful. In the case of facial swelling, the whole face has inflammation and tingling sensations until the swelling subsides.
In the case of sun poisoning on lips, cold sores start to form inside, outside or on the lip. The cold sores are very painful and do not occur one at a time. They usually occur in groups and are sometimes have pus filled in them. This leads to the swelling and redness on the lips and the area around the lips.
Inflammation is the most basic symptoms that happen in the case of any sunburn or sun poisoning. The area that has been sun poisoned gets red and is always inflamed unless the whole problem is treated. Inflammation happens even before the bumps and the sun poisoning rashes that appear on the skin of a person.
Dehydration of the skin
The more severe symptoms start when the skin and the body start getting dehydrated. Due to the increased heat in the body dehydration is common and hence a lot of water is advised to the person.
If the person is exposed to the sun for a very long time, it might lead to skin cancer in the longer run. This does not happen in a short time. But it is possible.
Nausea, Fever and Dizziness
In severe cases of sun poisoning not only the skin is affected but the body also shows some symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. If these symptoms are seen after the rashes, immediate medical care should be taken before the situation get worsened.
How to Treat Sun Poisoning Rash?
Sun poisoning rash is usually treated at home with some home remedies and over the counter medicines. In cases where more severe symptoms are seen, medical assistance is advised. The sun poisoning is better prevented than cured; so precautions should be taken before stepping out in the sun.
The immediate step after the sun poisoning is to take a cold bath so that the inflammation subsides and does not increase with time. Painkillers and anti-bacterial lotions are advised. Calamine lotions are one of the best for the rashes and help them heal faster. Drink plenty of water and keep the skin moisturized since dehydration might happen. While going out, keep yourself covered and wear loose cotton clothing so that the poisoned areas do not get irritated.
Home remedies are most effective in treating sun poisoning than the other medicines. So here are a few things you can do if you are suffering from sun poisoning:
- Aloe Vera is the perfect ingredient for any skin condition. In this case, since the skin is dehydrated, Aloe Vera keeps it from becoming even drier and also helps to ease the irritation and inflammation. You can either apply Aloe Vera juice or the fresh Aloe Vera gel directly from the plant on the affected areas.
- Yogurt is the most easily available ingredient to treat sun poisoning. Apply some yogurt to the area to subside swelling, pain and to cool the skin. Yogurt also boosts immunity and does not let any other substance attack the already harmed skin.
- Make some green tea. Cool it down and apply it on the burnt skin. Green tea is very helpful in cooling the skin that has been sun poisoned and also has been seen to be effective in bringing down the swelling and inflammation. The cooler the green tea the better. If you do not like pouring it then you can try applying it using some cotton cloth.
- Vinegar mixed in the same amount of water can do wonders for the skin. Vinegar manages the skin’s pH balance and brings it back to normal state. You can use the everyday vinegar and also the apple cider vinegar.
- Honey is an excellent antibacterial home product. There is a big chance for the sub poisoned area to be infected by other bacteria and develop into an infection. So applying honey is very useful in avoiding any further infections and also healing the skin faster.
- Baking Soda: Looking for a remedy for the rashes? Then baking soda in water paste is the one for you. Mix some baking soda in water and apply it on the rash. It will heal in a day or two.
- Milk: Everyone has some cold milk in their fridge. Just take some cold milk and pour it over your burnt skin or you can also take a cotton or a cloth and dip it in the milk and apply on the area like a compress. Do this for about half an hour for best results.
- Chamomile: We want our skin to cool down and the inflammation to subside. What better product than chamomile to do this job. Chamomile has a soothing effect on the skin that has been sun poisoned. So either directly apply it to the skin or mix it with the bath water to get the best results.
- Cucumber is the best ingredient to provide a cooling effect on the skin. The cucumber has a lot of water that keeps the skin hydrated. If it is mashed along with some sandalwood, it not only keeps the skin cool but will also help it heal faster.
How long does Sun poisoning last?
The biggest challenge is knowing that you actually have sun poisoning since it looks more or less like sunburn and people usually ignore it. Once you have identified sun poisoning and you know how intense the symptoms are, proper treatment should be sought. If immediate medical assistance is not taken, it might increase the time taken to heal. So in the case of mild sun poisoning, the overall symptoms will take about a week or ten days to go away, but in some cases after-effects stay for longer times.
The rashes, skin peeling and bumps in the case of mild sun poisoning go away within three days or maximum five days. In case of severe sun poisoning, the symptoms might take an even longer time. The overall symptoms may take up to ten days to couple of weeks. The pain usually starts within the first hour of the sun poisoning. In mild cases, the pain is more like light inflammation and burning sensation, but in the case of severe sun poisoning, there is a sharp pain in the affected areas. The pain goes away in about two to three days. The swelling, if treated on time, will go away within 24 to 48 hours. Some precautionary measures are to be taken to subside the swelling and not irritate it or cause any kind of bruising on it.