Do you think you might have sun poisoning, a severe form of sunburn? If so, you’ll want to know how to treat the condition now, prevent it in the future, and treat it in the long term, if necessary. Whether long term treatment is necessary or not will depend on whether you simply have severe sunburn or you have polymorphous light eruption (PMLE) or sun urticaria (sun allergy).
Your initial actions will be the same regardless. You’ll want to get yourself out of the sun and indoors, and then immediate cool yourself down and hydrate yourself. Drink some water right away, and keep drinking extra fluids over the coming few days since dehydration regularly results from sun poisoning. You can use cool compresses or take a cool shower or bath to cool your body off and hydrate your skin. After you’re done with your bath or shower, you will want to apply moisturizer to your skin. If you can get moisturizer which includes Aloe Vera, this will be most effective since aloe can quicken the healing of skin from trauma.
Most severe sunburn and PMLE will be able to clear up on their own within days if you take these steps (PMLE can take about a week and a half to clear up). While you are waiting to recover, cover yourself up when you go outdoors, and use a hat or umbrella. In the future you can prevent recurrences by using protection (hat, umbrella, sunscreen, extra clothing) and limiting your exposure.
In terms of long-term treatment, you won’t need to pursue any for severe sunburn; even PMLE can go away over time on its own and recurrences may cease without your intervention. In some cases low-dose antimalarials may help. If you have sun allergy, you may need to pursue desensitization or phototherapy to help reduce your symptoms or cure the condition. Sunscreen with UVB and UVA protection may help you in all cases, and topical corticosteroids can help some people as well.
In some cases, sun sensitivity may be the result of acne medications, heart drugs, birth control pills, antidepressents, diuretics, or antibiotics. Birth control pills, fragrances, antibacterials and antifungals are also sometimes culprits. You may need to discontinue what you’re using to end your photosensitivity—but in some cases that may not be an option, so consult with a physician to find out what you need to do. You may be able to substitute another medication, or you may just need to start avoiding intense sun exposure or taking extra steps to protect yourself when you’re outside. Whatever you do, don’t stop using a medication without talking to a doctor first or a more serious condition could get worse—which in most cases just wouldn’t be worth it.
Sun poisoning is inconvenient, but it’s rarely dangerous. In rare cases it can be, so if your symptoms are particularly severe or long-lasting, you should see a doctor immediately. In particular, the following symptoms are a signal to seek medical attention: swelling in the face, fever and chills, confusion, faintness or headache, severe dehydration, or upset stomach.
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