Sun Poisoning Treatment in Knoxville, TN
*WARNING: this condition is potentially life-threatening. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, don't wait. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.*
Do you have red, blistered skin, fever, chills, dizziness, or nausea after prolonged sun exposure? Do you have a headache or facial swelling? You may be experiencing sun poisoning.
Sun poisoning isn't actual poisoning - it's an extreme sunburn. While mild or moderate sunburn can be treated at home and isn't usually a medical concern, sun poisoning can be a medical emergency. If you're fair-skinned and unaccustomed to intense sun exposure you can get polymorphous light eruption (PMLE).
If you suspect you've been overexposed to the sun and are feeling sun poisoning symptoms, don't wait - seek emergency medical attention right away. Less extreme cases of sun poisoning can be treated at your medical provider's office. To speak with a sun poisoning specialist today in Knoxville, call (423) 482-8711 or contact AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center online.
What are the symptoms of sun poisoning?
Sun poisoning isn't actually poisoning, but a condition caused by overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Symptoms are similar to normal sunburn symptoms but more severe. In addition to normal sunburn symptoms, sun poisoning may include:
- skin peeling or blistering
- severe skin pain
- rapid pulse
- nausea or vomiting
- extreme thirst
- weakness or fatigue
- fever or chills
Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE) is a type of sun poisoning that typically affects fair-skinned people from northern climates who aren't used to intense sun exposure. Native American people can also be affected by PMLE.
Symptoms of PMLE include:
- severe skin rash
- dense areas of bumps on the skin
What causes sun poisoning?
Sun poisoning occurs when you are exposed to the sun and neglect to take protective steps like wearing sunscreen or protective clothing. While you're more likely to get an extreme sunburn if you're fair-skinned, live in a northern climate, and aren't accustomed to intense sun exposure, anyone can get a severe sunburn by staying in the sun too long without protection.
Sun poisoning often affects people from mild climates traveling to hot climates for vacation or work. Because the sun's UV intensity increases as you near the equator, people who live far north or south of the equator may not be prepared for the type of extreme heat and powerful UV rays present in sunnier parts of the world.
It's important to know that daily temperatures don't necessarily indicate how strong the sun's UV index (strength) is. Even if it's quite cool outside, the sun can still damage your skin.
Sun overexposure can also occur in snowy regions because sunlight reflects off snow. Using sunscreen and other protective measures is vital when skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or doing other outdoor winter activities.
Typical risks for getting sun poisoning include:
- traveling to a hot climate from a cool climate
- taking antibiotics or oral contraceptives
- using alpha hydroxy acids, like chemical peels
- having fair skin
- applying any type of oil to your skin before sun exposure
- taking certain herbs, like St. John's Wort
- spending extended amounts of time on the water or the coast
- doing outdoor winter activities without sunscreen on sunny days
How is sun poisoning diagnosed?
If you think you've been overexposed to the sun, speak with your medical provider immediately. It's important to get treatment that helps prevent complications like further skin damage or dehydration.
Your medical provider will examine you to determine the severity of your burn, then, depending on the severity of your symptoms, may advise you to seek emergency treatment at the ER.
Severe sun exposure can be a potentially life-threatening condition. Dehydration can cause organ shutdown and many other complications. Infections can happen if your blisters rupture and get contaminated, and these infections can spread to your blood. Getting medical attention for extreme sun exposure is crucial.
How is sun poisoning treated?
Your medical provider may treat your skin with cool water or cold compresses. If you've gone to the ER, you will be given IV fluid for rehydration and your vital signs will be checked before your skin damage is assessed.
You may be given steroid cream for painful blisters, oral steroids for pain and swelling, prescription painkillers for intense pain, or topical antibiotics to prevent skin infections.
In less extreme cases, your medical provider will likely recommend:
- resting and staying out of the sun and heat
- taking over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (never give aspirin or aspirin-based painkillers to people under the age of 18)
- Benadryl or other antihistamines (to reduce itching)
- non-scented aloe gel, lotion or gel directly from the plant to hydrate and heal your skin (chilling the gel in the fridge before applying helps relieve pain and itching)
- bathing in cool water with oatmeal, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda (never take a very hot or very cold bath, and don't rub your skin with a towel after)
- black tea: dab on affected skin, but never apply to your skin while it's hot
- cool compress: store-bought or ice cubes wrapped in a damp cloth (never leave on skin for longer than 20 minutes)
- rehydrating with water or sports drinks to replenish electrolytes
- bathing or showering in cool (not ice cold) water
- avoiding scratching or picking blisters
- staying out of the sun until your skin has healed completely
Repeated occasions of severe sun exposure can increase your chances of getting skin cancer. It's very important to take these preventative measures before exposing your skin to the sun:
- wearing sunscreen of at least 30 SPF - recent research shows that higher SPFs do offer more effective sun protection, especially for the fair-skinned1
- wearing a hat
- covering exposed skin
- limiting daily sun exposure
- avoiding the sun during the peak hours of 10 am and 2 pm
- remembering that you can get sunburned on cloudy days and taking the necessary preventative steps
Reserve Your Appointment Now
While most sunburns are mild and can be treated at home, more severe cases require medical attention. In extreme cases, you should seek emergency medical care to avoid complications.
If you think you've been overexposed to the sun, don't wait - get medical attention right away or speak with a sun poisoning specialist today in Knoxville by calling (423) 482-8711 or contact AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center online.
1. Williams, Joshua D., et al. "SPF 100 Sunscreen Is More Protective against Sunburn than SPF 50 in Actual Use: Results of a Randomized, Double-Blind, Split-Face, Natural Sunlight Exposure Clinical Trial." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 78, no. 5, 2018, doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.12.062.
AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center
Address1604 Lamons Lane
Johnson City, TN 37604
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm