Most people cannot wait to go outside to soak up the sun after a
long, barren winter. The sun has many countless benefits on earth. For starters, the sun makes life possible on Earth. Sun is the primary source of energy of all living things. Moreover, moderate doses of sun activate vitamin D production in the body. Although despite the necessity of the sun to vitamin D synthesis, it is necessary to limit exposure of the skin to sunlight. It is known to many that overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays leads to sunburn. However, a more severe form of photodermatitis, or an abnormal skin response to sunlight, is sun poisoning.
The earth’s ozone layer keeps these harmful UV rays from entering earth, however, not all is filtered out. Due to the thinning ozone layer, more and more UV rays pass through this layer, causing more harm than ever on the skin. When the UV rays permeate through the outer layer of the skin, it causes damage to the living cells found beneath. This usually causes sunburn, but the more severe reaction is sun poisoning.
The body produces melanin, the determinant pigment that determines eye, hair and skin color. Two types of melanin are produced in the body, eumelanin and pheomelanin. The former is commonly found in dark-skinned people, turning their skin brown and acts as natural protection from sunburns, whereas the latter commonly causes the skin to redden, and is thus frequently found in fair-skinned people. Hence, fair-skinned people are more prone to sun poisoning. Interestingly enough, it is said that redheads are most susceptible to skin damage after extended sun exposure.
Some of signs and symptoms include headache, dizziness or fainting, nausea, chills, blisters, quick pulse and breathing, blisters, dehydration, shock and unconsciousness. A person is also in danger of electrolyte imbalance if there is sun poisoning. This is aside from the painful, red and burning feeling of the skin that is normally associated with sunburn. If dehydration, shock or unconsciousness is observed, seek medical attention immediately. Furthermore, if there is extreme pain or vomiting or a fever develops of over 104°F, it is better to head to an emergency room. IV fluids may be administered to reinstate hydration or oral steroids may be prescribed to lessen inflammation.
To treat sun poisoning, increased efforts to cool the body down and stay hydrated. Take frequent cool (not cold) baths. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, fruit juices and sports drinks, and avoid drinking caffeinated drinks as they as diuretics. Don’t rub the skin, only patting it, with wet cloth. If possible, stay in a cool environment until symptoms alleviate to avoid further damage on the skin.
It is better to prevent sun poisoning rather than to treat it. If exposure to the sun is expected, apply generous amounts of sunscreen and protective clothing, such as hats. Sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and broad spectrum is generally recommended.
Although it may be less common than sunburn, sun poisoning is more severe and would require home treatment right away in order to not exacerbate symptoms. Through St Mark James programs, first aid training is made available to educate the lay community on how to treat and ease symptoms for many various medical situations. Moreover, CPR courses are also offered to participants who want to learn the most up to date CPR training for emergency medical situations.