Symptoms of sun poisoning
The signs and symptoms of sun poisoning can vary a bit depending on what type of sun poisoning you have. Most people who get this condition simply have a severe form of sunburn (that’s right, you haven’t actually been “poisoned” by the sun!). If this is the case, your symptoms will probably be mild to moderate and may include redness and blistering of your skin in the affected areas along with some pain, tingling or swelling. You may also experience symptoms which are body-wide and not confined to the surface of your skin. For example, you could have a headache, or you may get a fever or chills. Nausea, dizziness, and dehydration can also occur.
There is another type that called polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). PMLE is less common than severe sunburn but common enough to affect 1 in every 10 Americans. PMLE is more common in women than it is in men and can affect people of all ages. It can be hereditary in Native Americans, but usually it is the result of sudden relocation from one climate which is less sunny to another which is sunnier. If you have PMLE you could develop a skin rash which consists of hives on the arms, lower legs and chest, or small bumps or dense clusters of bumps anywhere on your body. Other skin symptoms may include redness, burning, or itching in the area of the sunburn. Other symptoms which may also present themselves include fatigue, nausea, chills or headache.
The least common form is solar urticaria (sun allergy). This allergy can cause itching, redness, blisters or wheals on the skin, and may also result in wheezing, dizziness or faintness. In extreme causes, it is possible to lose consciousness.
Usually the symptoms of sun poisoning are mild in nature and may cause you mild or moderate discomfort for a few days or a couple of weeks before subsiding, largely on their own. If you develop these symptoms, in most cases you can recover on your own simply by getting out of the sun, drinking extra fluids for a few days, and taking a cool bath or shower or using cool compresses.
If you experience a very painful sunburn which covers a large section of your body or blisters, you should seek medical attention. If you suffer fever or chills or swelling in your face, that is another cause to visit a hospital. Severe dehydration, headache, confusion, faintness, and upset stomach are other concerning signs. None of these signs necessarily mean that you need hospitalization, but they do indicate you should visit a doctor and see what’s going on. Be reassured however that the prognosis is good and that you will probably be feeling better in a few days or a couple of weeks. PMLE and sun allergy can both go away completely over the long term either on their own or with treatment. A doctor can help you figure out the best treatment measures to take.