Doctor's Notes on Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)
The most common symptom of mild sunburn is skin redness and pain or irritation. In severe cases of sunburn (sun poisoning) symptoms include
- severe skin burning and blistering,
- massive fluid loss (dehydration),
- electrolyte imbalance, and
- in some cases, infection.
Other symptoms that accompany sunburn include
- flu-like symptoms,
- blistering skin, and
- skin loss (peeling) about 4 to 7 days after exposure.
Severe untreated sunburn can cause shock and even death.
A certain kind of sun poisoning is due to a condition called polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). Symptoms of PMLE are a mild to severe skin rash, usually appearing within 30 minutes to several hours of sun exposure. The rash manifests as itchy, small bumps all over the body that progress to dense clumps of bumps, along with hives.
What Is the Treatment for Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)?
Most treatments used to treat sunburn are only used to treat symptoms.
Medications used to treat sunburn include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Topical diclofenac 0.1% gel (Solaraze)
- Oral steroids such as prednisone
- Aloe vera gel mixed with topical anesthetics (benzocaine)
Home remedies to treat sunburn symptoms include:
- Preventing sunburn
- Apply dampened cool cloths or cold compresses to reduce the heat and lessen the pain
- Soak in a bathtub of tepid, plain, soap-free water (soap can irritate the burn)
- Gently pat the skin dry afterward - do not rub it
- Apply a soothing skin cream or lotion
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12 Home Remedies for SunburnEveryone occasionally forgets to apply, or reapply sunscreen now and then. If you do forget, these 11 home remedies will help soothe the pain of sunburn. Make sure you are drinking enough fluid to avoid dehydration. You can apply soothing lotions that contain Aloe Vera and OTC hydrocortisone creams to burned, dry skin. We'll also share tips to help you care for blisters that occur as the result of a bad sunburn.
Dehydration in AdultsDehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids (mostly water), exceeds the amount that is taken in. Causes of dehydration include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, diseases (diabetes), impaired ability to drink, lack of access to safe drinking water, and injuries to the skin. Common symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, dry skin, headache, low urine output, tiredness, sleepiness, dry mouth, and increased thirst. Treatment of dehydration depends upon the severity of the condition.
Dehydration in ChildrenDehydration in children can result from not drinking enough liquids, vomiting, diarrhea, or combination of these conditions. Causes of dehydration in children include viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, diabetes, and increased sweating, and others. Symptoms include sunken eyes, decrease in urination, no tears when crying, dry mouth, lethargy, and irritability. Treatment at home includes proper fluid replacement. Some cases of dehydration are so severe they may require hospitalization.
Heat RashHeat rash (prickly heat, miliaria) is thought to be due to plugged hair follicles and sweat ducts on the skin. Overexposure to a hot environment, for example, working or exercising in a hot environment, are causes heat rash. There are three types of heat rash, clear, red, and deep.Signs and symptoms of heat rash include itching (prickly heat), red bumps, blisters, or large welts on the face, neck back, stomach, buttocks, groin, or the fold under the breasts. Home remedies for heat rash include first aid, cool baths or showers, and avoiding skin-to-skin contact. OTC and prescription medications may be necessary for treatment. People at risk for heat rash include infants, children younger than four years of age, and people with congenital decreased sweating, are overweight or obese, are bedridden and unable to walk, and the elderly.
MelanomaMelanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Symptoms and signs of melanoma include asymmetry, irregular border, color, large diameter, and change in size and shape. Melanoma treatment depends upon the stage of the skin cancer. The prognosis for melanoma depends upon the thickness of the melanoma, depth of penetration and ulceration.
Skin CancerSkin cancer, the most common cancer, happens when skin cells start growing out of control, usually as a result of too much ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or tanning booths. Of the three types of skin cancer -- basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma -- melanoma is the deadliest. Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer.
Thermal Burns (Heat or Fire)Thermal burns are burns caused by heat, rather than chemicals or other causes. They can range from mild, like a sunburn, to severe. The burn severity is determined by the size of the area of the body with burns and how many layers of skin are involved.
Vomiting and NauseaVomiting and nausea are common complaints that accompany many conditions and diseases. A few common causes of vomiting and nausea include food poisoning, viruses, vertigo, head injuries, gallbladder disease, appendicitis, migraine, brain tumors, and infections. Treatment of vomiting and nausea depend on the cause of the symptoms.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.