What Really Happens To Your Body If You Get Sun Poisoning

Despite its name, sun poisoning doesn't actually mean you've been poisoned by the sun. Rather, it refers to a severe case of sunburn. Sun poisoning occurs when you receive too much unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays (via Healthline). Unlike regular sunburn, however, sun poisoning affects your entire body and can often look like an allergic reaction.

Sun poisoning shares a few symptoms with mild to moderate sunburn, like redness, pain, and swelling. But it can also cause more severe side effects that may require medical attention, including nausea, headaches, fever, chills, vomiting, dehydration, dizziness, confusion, fainting, and peeling or blistering skin.

While anyone can get sun poisoning, there are a few factors that can increase your risk of developing severe sunburn. For example, if you have fair skin, take antibiotics or birth control pills, live near the equator, go to the beach frequently, use chemical peels, or have family members who have had skin cancer, you may be more likely to get sun poisoning.

How to treat and prevent sun poisoning

Since sun poisoning is essentially a severe form of sunburn, they can both be prevented by wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF). Unlike regular sunscreen, broad-spectrum sunscreen can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause skin damage and skin cancer (via Insider). It's also important to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every two hours, especially after going in water. 

If you do get sun poisoning, however, you can treat mild symptoms at home by staying hydrated and using cool creams and compresses to soothe your skin. Since sun poisoning causes dehydration, drinking plenty of water and liquids will help rehydrate your body and speed up the healing process. You can also apply aloe vera or a fragrance-free moisturizer to your sunburn to help relieve any pain and irritation.