What is sun poisoning? Simply stated, it does not mean you have been poisoned – it’s a term used to describe someone who has a severe case of sunburn.
Sunburn is an inflammation of the skin that is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. UV rays are most intense at noon and the hours immediately before and after (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), particularly in the late spring, summer, and early autumn. Although they are less concentrated at other times of the day and year, UV rays can still damage the skin and eyes – even in the dead of winter and on cloudy or rainy days. UV rays “bounce” off reflective surfaces – including water, sand, and snow. UV rays from tanning beds will inflict similar damage if the skin is overexposed.
Signs and Symptoms of Sun Poisoning
Sunburn is a very common condition in the United States. Approximately 30% to 40% of adults and close to 80% of children and adolescents report having at least one severe sunburn in the preceding year. Over the last twenty years, risks from UV rays have increased greatly.
While all reported cases may not qualify as sun poisoning, it’s important to know that within just 15 minutes of being in the sun, you can become sunburned. You might not know it right away – redness and discomfort usually only show up hours later. It’s the primary reason people remain in the sun longer than they should.
Those who fail to use sunscreen effectively, or who have light or fair skin, are at higher risk for sun poisoning.
Immediate symptoms of sun poisoning can include:
- Hot, red, tender skin
Pain when the skin is touched or rubbed
Several days after exposure the skin may:
Long Term Effects of Severe Sunburn
Although the visible signs and symptoms of sun burned skin may ago away within hours, days or weeks, the long term effects will remain with you forever.
There are a number of long term, adverse, effects on your skin and health as a result of over-exposure to UV rays.
Skin cancer is one of them – this gradually develops as we age. Melanoma is one of the fastest growing types of cancer in the world. More people suffer from skin cancer today compared with just ten years ago. The rising occurrence of this serious cancer is in part attributed to repeated sunburns, especially those that occur in early childhood.
Skin growths and lesions – Sunburns can lead to changes in the skin and result in skin growths called actinic keratosis. These growths are normally non-cancerous, but if left untreated they can become malignant.Suppression of the immune system can also be caused by sunburn. When the skin becomes burned the distribution of white blood cells can be adversely affected. When this happens the ability to fight off infections becomes suppressed. After each sunburn this suppression can last up to 24 hours, however, in the case of repeated burns the suppression can become permanent.
Premature aging is the most visible sign of repeated sun exposure and the occurrence of sunburns. The long lasting effects are seen in the appearance of freckles, wrinkles, dry leathery skin, dark spots and sagging skin.
Finally, and least discussed, is the risk of developing damage to the eyes. Cataracts (the lens of the eye) and macular degeneration (damage to the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye) can occur from overexposure to UV rays and can lead to severe sight impairment, even blindness.
Learn more about how to treat your skin after a sunburn and what can be done to reverse the signs of years of sun damage in our articles below.
- Sunscreen: New Guidelines this Summer (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Frequently Asked Questions About Sunscreen (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Signs of Sun Damage & How to Prevent Sun Damage (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Sun Damaged Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Professional Treatment of Sun Damaged Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Repairing Sun Damaged Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)