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Sunburn vs. Sun Poisoning: The Actual Difference

Aug 11, 2023

Health and Wellness

Sunburn vs. Sun Poisoning: The Actual Difference

Going out on a hot day under the sun can cause potential problems, and itchy, peeling skin sensitive to the touch is never enjoyable in the summer heat. However, it can be difficult to determine whether sun exposure is dangerous to an individual. A sunburn can be the result of unprotected sun exposure, even on a gloomy day. This frequent skin condition results in red, itchy, or painful patches.

On the other hand, sun poisoning is a more dangerous condition and can also occur, which can be considered a more dangerous case of sunburn, where the skin suffers from blistering and dehydration. But do you know how to differentiate these two conditions? In this blog, you will learn everything about sunburn vs. sun poisoning.

How Can You Differentiate Sun Poisoning from Sunburn?

Often you may find it difficult to distinguish whether you suffer from sun poisoning or sunburn. However, with the right knowledge, you can distinguish between the two.

In the case of sunburn, there is uncomfortable skin redness, tenderness, and swelling that often peel during the healing process.

Whereas sun poisoning is a severe sunburn that requires immediate medical care. You will suffer from nausea, fever, and chills in this condition. But in more severe cases, it can also result in death.

Sunburn vs. Sun Poisoning Symptoms

Sunburn Symptoms

Sunburn symptoms occur on the skin within a minute or two after overexposure to the sun’s rays, and you may notice the following symptoms on your skin:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Sensitivity
  • Itchiness
  • Skin peeling

Sun Poisoning Symptoms

You will suffer from acute sun poisoning if you stay in the sun for a long period of time without sun protection. Sun poisoning may be similar to sunburn, but the symptoms will be much more severe and include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Fever and chills
  • Skin blistering
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headaches

What Causes Sun Poisoning?

Sun poisoning is a severe sunburn caused by spending too much time in the sun without adequate protection. Additionally, certain drugs, such as Accutane, which is used to treat acne, certain antibiotics, and topicals, such as Retin-A, are photosensitizing, which means they can make you considerably more susceptible to the sun and can result in severe sunburn or sun poisoning.

Related Article: Tips to be Safe in the Sun

When Should You See a Doctor About Your Sunburn?

Call your doctor or go to an urgent care center immediately if you have a serious burn or a large region covered in fluid-filled blisters, have chills, or feel dizzy. You may require intravenous fluids to rehydrate your body depending on the severity of your burns and general symptoms, as well as how dehydrated you've become. To reduce inflammation and improve your discomfort, your doctor may also prescribe oral or topical steroids and pain medications. Antibiotics may also be recommended to avoid infection. If you're feeling ill but don't have fluid-filled blisters, call your doctor and explain what's happening and obtain advice on where to go or how to properly manage your symptoms.

Treatment Options for Sunburn and Sun Poisoning

You should take quick measures when you see the signs of sunburn and sun poisoning. The two conditions can be treated similarly at home. Listed below are a few sunburn and sun poisoning treatments:

  • Stay out of the sun and stay under shade or indoors for the next 24 to 72 hours, depending on its severity, so that it can heal and recover.
  • Use a moist, cool compress or take a cool shower or bath to cool the skin areas affected by sunburn.
  • Use aloe vera or soy-based lotions to moisturize the skin as they become dry to sunburn.
  • Drink water and IV fluids to keep your body hydrated and regulate electrolytes.
  • Don’t scratch the skin or pop the blisters.

If you suffer from a chill, dehydration, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting, you should seek immediate medical care as these are the symptoms of sun poisoning. Leaving these conditions untreated can cause death.

Prevention from Sunburns and Sun Poisoning

The ideal way to avoid sunburns and sun poisoning is through prevention. Preventive measures for sunburns and sun poisoning are nearly the same. Take the following measure to prevent sunburns and sun poisoning:

  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF to protect your skin from damaging UV rays.
  • Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before and every two hours after sun exposure.
  • When out in the sun, wear sunglasses, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Always try to stay under shade as much as possible.
  • Stay aware of any medications that can increase your skin sensitivity to sunlight.
  • Avoid spending extended periods in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Increase fluid intake when you are out in the sun.

Related Article: Safety Tips for Summer to Prevent Heat-Related Illness

Walk-In at 8-2-8 Urgent Care for Sunburn and Sun Poisoning

Sunburns and sun poisoning can be easily treated at home. However, if the condition worsens, you must seek immediate medical care. Our team of skilled providers at the 8-2-8 Urgent Care walk-in clinic in Oceanside, CA, is ready to provide you with the best treatment for sunburns and sun poisoning. You can also contact 8-2-8 Urgent Care, and our staff will walk you through our online self-check-in from the convenience of your home! Call (760) 216-6253.

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