The Real Difference Between Sun Poisoning And Sunburn

If, after a particularly blazing hot morning at the beach, your skin is red, blistering, and there is swelling, and on top of that you have a headache, fever, nausea, and dizziness — it is definitely time to get in the shade. Because while, as Health points out, there is really no such thing as a good sunburn, there are particularly bad ones and these can result in a very painful experience which could also trigger flu-like symptoms. Medically at least, dermatologists would consider this to be a severe sunburn, but it's also known as sun poisoning.

Under normal circumstances, when you head out into the sun and you skip the sunscreen, your body reacts to the UV exposure in the sunlight by producing extra melanin, or the dark pigment in your skin cells. The result of that is a tan, which is your body's way of protecting itself from getting cooked by UV rays. But there is only so much the melanin can do, and after a while, your skin starts to burn. Unfortunately, as Mayo Clinic points out, sun burns don't just happen when when its hot — they can happen during cool or cloudy days too, and the snow, sand, or water can reflect the rays that can burn your skin.

Sun poisoning is more than just a sun burn

Sun poisoning looks like a very painful sunburn but you might develop blisters or a rash. You might feel dehydrated, and light-headed. So, while a sunburn can just leave your skin feeling red and raw, sun poisoning triggers symptoms that can affect your entire body. A milder case of sun poisoning might only require OTC medication like Ibuprofen to help with the pain, and aloe vera gel if you don't have any blisters. See a doctor is you develop blisters, fever, or chills (via Insider). 

Meanwhile, preventing sun poisoning is all about protection. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and reapply every two hours, particularly if you've been in the water, or you've been sweating. Limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear protective clothing. And if you're still prone to severe sunburns after all the precautions you've taken, remember that some medications that treat acne, antibiotics, diuretics, or birth control pills can make you more sun-sensitive (via Web MD). So, if you really want to take that beach vacation, you may want to spend most it in the shade.