2016-04-01 / OnCall

Here Comes the Sun

Tania Zuniga, M.D.

Q: When the sun came out this spring, I went outside to soak it up. Unfortunately, my skin wasn’t ready for the stronger rays, and I got a really bad sunburn that made me swell and blister. Is this sun poisoning, and what’s the best way to reintroduce ourselves to the sun?

A: Reintroducing ourselves to the sun takes time and should be done very carefully.

It can take only a few minutes to burn in the sun. To protect your skin, avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. because that is when the rays are strongest. No matter the weather outside, use at least an SPF 15 every day. Wear a hat and long sleeves in the direct sunlight, and never use indoor tanning beds.
If you do find that you’ve been in the sun too long, you may have minor sunburn — characterized by hot, red, swelling and painful skin — but this usually clears up after a few days. Using a cool compress or taking a cool bath, using aloe vera gel or lotion, and taking ibuprofen to relieve the inflammation can help while your skin heals.

Sun poisoning is a very severe case of sunburn. Sun poisoning can produce severe blisters, intense pain,Tania Zuniga, M.D., Family Medicine | Mount Nittany Physician Group Tania Zuniga, M.D., Family Medicine | Mount Nittany Physician Group rapid pulse, chills and fever, nausea, headache, confusion, fainting or severe dehydration. In this case, seek emergency medical attention. Do not pop any blisters, and cover the sunburned areas with sunscreen and clothing before going outdoors. Treatment will depend on how severely you are burned, and in the most extreme cases, you may be admitted to a specialized burn unit.
Above all else, protect yourself by enjoying the sun carefully.

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