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What’s the best way to treat sun poisoning?

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
Sun poisoning is a catchall term used to describe two separate consequences of being out in the sun too long: (1) sunburn and (2) dehydration/overheating.
 
Mild sunburns can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You can soothe your skin with cool compresses or soaks. You can also try a lotion or spray specifically made for treating sunburns. These are usually made with varying combinations of a numbing solution and aloe. Also, make sure to avoid sun exposure until your symptoms resolve.
 
Symptoms of dehydration can vary, from just feeling tired and sluggish to nausea, vomiting, headache and, eventually, even coma and death. Treatment of mild dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids, remove yourself from the hot area and try to cool down.  In the ER and in ambulances, we cool down patients by using cool cloths on their neck, underarms and groin, or spraying them with cold water and putting them in front of fans. While people that we’re treating need ER-level care, you can also adopt these same tricks on a smaller scale on your own, if you find that you’ve overheated.
 
Be aware that you can get a sunburn even on a cloudy day, and one can develop in less than three hours of being in the sun (just minutes in people who are especially sensitive). Also remember that younger skin (especially little babies’ skin) is particularly susceptible, so you have to be extra careful with them. Babies under 6 months should really be kept out of prolonged periods in = direct sun.  Children older than 6 months can be protected with a combination of sunscreen, protective clothing, and by minimizing their time in the hot sun.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.