Prevention, Symptoms & Care of Sun Poisoning during travel

Dear reader, I created this page because I personally got sun poisoning when I was a child. It is my worse travel memory; painful, scary and “paralyzing” for days. Please take a few minutes to read this information. I wish you happy, safe and most of all “healthy” travels.

Sun Poisoning

Screenshot of “Sun Poisoning” Image Search on Google. Click to see it.

Tips to Prevent Sun Poisoning

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more – “Sunscreens contain chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light at various spectrums. Sunscreens are rated by SPF, which is the relative time for developing redness after exposure to UVB of treated skin versus untreated skin – an SPF of fifteen means that for a given light condition it takes 15 times as long to develop redness with the screen as without. In essence, it blocks about 94% of the UVB. One might assume that this would be plenty, but you must consider several factors: testing was done with more sunscreen applied than you may normally use. Sunscreen may wash or sweat off – use sun sccreen in a “waterproof” carrier if you will be in the water or sweating profusely. Reapply frequently, especially if getting in and out of the water a lot.” – Medic Direct
  • Avoid the mid-day sun, go to the beach early in the morning or later on the afternoons.
  • Apply sunscreen every two hours if you are constantly in the sun, and even sooner if you are playing sports or if you are in the water.
  • Follow directions on the sunscreen bottle for best results.
  • If you happen to be at the beach around noon, get some additional protection at a shady spot.
  • Pay special attention to children, they are more vulnerable to sun-poisoning and the symptoms and effects can be life-threatening.
  • If you have a cloudy beach day you STILL need to wear sunscreen, the sun rays will still get through and can cause sunburn and could potentially turn into sun poisoning.

Symptoms of Sun Poisoning

Symptoms of sun poisoning are:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • red skin rash
  • chills

Seek medical attention should this happen during your vacation, don’t wait until you get back home to treat it.

Taking good care of yourself and your loved ones should always be a priority during a vacation, or you won’t be able to enjoy it.

If you get sunburned….

If you happen to get sunburned, do the following:
drink lots of liquids, water is best.
Lotions or gels with aloe vera will help alleviate the sunburned skin.
“Unfortunately, there is little you can do to reverse the damage done. It is vitally important to prevent further burning (an intuitively obvious conclusion) with clothing sufficiently heavy and sunscreens. The burning and inflammation responds best to cool soaks and anti-inflammatory analgesics such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Steroids such as prednisone may be used if a great deal of swelling or “sun poisoning” is present, but probably won’t help most burns. Occasionally narcotic analgesics are needed to treat the pain.”

If you are in pain, or experience any of the symptoms mentioned previously under “Symptoms of Sun Poisoning”, don’t hesitate to contact a doctor. Children and seniors are at higher risk of complications and sun poisoning.

Additional Resources of Information for Sun Poisoning

Sun Protection

Source: Medic Direct
Many people enjoy the rare opportunity to “soak up the rays”. However, the warmth you can enjoy, but tanning is not a safe option! Any sun exposure enough to cause tanning will increase your risk of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Most skin cancers are the basal cell type, which, if caught early, are more of a nuisance than a life-threatening illness, but extreme tans and burning episodes when young are risks for developing melanoma, a frequently fatal cancer. If you insist on sun-bathing, do so slowly, with the use of protective creams. This will allow the skin to “toughen up” to further damage.

  • Ultraviolet Light – Ultraviolet light is the spectrum of light just above the wavelengths which our eyes can recognize. It is the wavelength that causes most of our problems. Knowing the characteristics of ultraviolet light helps to understand how it causes problems.
  • UVA – UVA is the spectrum of ultraviolet light nearest to that which we can see. UVA, although it constitutes most of the ultraviolet light which reaches the earth’s surface, does not cause much injury to skin. It may, however, trigger an initial phase of redness in some people, and can be responsible for triggering phototoxic or photoallergic reactions associated with certain medications (see below) or illnesses such as Lupus. It may also play a large role in the photoaging process. Many (but not all) newer sunscreens protect against UVA for these reasons.
  • UVB – UVB, although making up only about 10% of the UV light which reaches the earth’s surface, is the most important for causing burning and damage to the skin. It is filtered out by the atmosphere (especially in the ozone layer), but it is far more intense mid-day and nearer the equator (or in summer compared to winter). As you increase altitude, there is about 3% more UVB for every thousand feet elevation. UVB, as all light, reflects from certain surfaces, and this must be taken into consideration – snow and ice reflect up to three quarters of the light which hits it, and water may reflect up to 100%! This is why being out on the water on a cloudy day carries such a high risk of sunburn – the infra-red (heat-associated) wavelengths are absorbed by the clouds, but not the UVB, which is also reflected. You don’t feel hot, but are being exposed to huge amounts of UVB!
  • UVC UVC, although used in germicidal lamps, is of little consequence to humans due to its low energy and low penetration of skin.

Sunscreens

  • Physical Blockers – These consist of creams and suspensions such as zinc oxide which physically block ultraviolet light. These are usually opaque, sometimes brightly colored, and are now becoming available in a micronized form which is clear upon application.
  • Chemical Sunscreens – Sunscreens contain chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light at various spectrums. Sunscreens are rated by SPF, which is the relative time for developing redness after exposure to UVB of treated skin versus untreated skin – an SPF of fifteen means that for a given light condition it takes 15 times as long to develop redness with the screen as without. In essence, it blocks about 94% of the UVB. One might assume that this would be plenty, but you must consider several factors: testing was done with more sunscreen applied than you may normally use. sunscreen may wash or sweat off – use screen in a “waterproof” carrier if you will be in the water or sweating profusely. reapply frequently, especially if getting in and out of the water a lot.

Treating a Sunburn

Unfortunately, there is little you can do to reverse the damage done. It is vitally important to prevent further burning (an intuitively obvious conclusion) with clothing sufficiently heavy and sunscreens. The burning and inflammation responds best to cool soaks and anti-inflammatory analgesics such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Steroids such as prednisone may be used if a great deal of swelling or “sun poisoning” is present, but probably won’t help most burns. Occasionally narcotic analgesics are needed to treat the pain.

Medications That May Cause Photo sensitivity

The following medications may cause problems when in the sun. There is no way of predicting who or when, so use a sunscreen which blocks UVA if taking any of these. Others may also cause problems, check with your pharmacist.

antihistamines coal tar products (“tegrin”, “denorex”, etc.) oral contraceptives and oestrogen anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, ketoprofen, naproxen, etc.) phenothiazines (major tranquilizers such as “thorazine”, etc.)sulphonamides – sulpha antibiotics such as “bactrim”, “septra”, TMP/SMX, etc. sulphonylureas – many of the oral diabetes medications thiazide diuretics (fluid pills) some antimalarials – “fansidar” (a sulpha), chloroquine tetracycline antibiotics – including doxycycline, “minocin”, etc. tricyclic antidepressants – “elavil”, etc. acetazolamide (“diamox”) – a diuretic used for glaucoma and to prevent altitude illness some deodorants, deodorant agents in soaps, perfumes, etc. several herbal products, especially those in the citrus, umbilliferae (celery and fennel), and St. John’s wort families.

Source: http://www.medicdirect.co.uk/travel/default.ihtml?step=4&pid=193

Please take good care of yourself and your loved ones. Wear lots of sunblock and stay out the noon sun to avoid sun poisoning, a lifetime of memories is more precious than a temporary tan.

I wish you a healthy and enjoyable vacation.

NOTE: This page is intended for informational purposes only, it is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health. The information presented on this page was a compilation of information found on the sources listed.

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