Most of us have experienced times where we have spent too much time in the sun and have gotten burnt. However, when does a sunburn move from being just a burn to being sun poisoning? The truth is that even a sunburn is sun poisoning, regardless of how serious the burn is. Sun poisoning and sunburns are both considered forms of photodermatitis, or in other words, an allergic reaction to too much sun.

Effects on the Skin

Sun poisoning can create an ultraviolet-sensitive rash. This rash can completely cover the exposed areas of the skin. A UV rash looks much like a sunburn, except for the red areas of the skin are also swollen and itchy. Sun poisoning can be accompanied by blisters and peeling skin. Sun poisoning may also cause permanent skin damage in the form of sun spots. These are areas of darker or lighter skin pigments that appears in spots in varying sizes on the areas most exposed to the sun.

Physical Effects

Along with effects on the skin, your body will also physically react to sun poisoning. Those suffering from sun poisoning will also experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache and fever. At the first sign of these symptoms remove yourself from the sun immediately. If the symptoms do not relieve themselves once you are out of the sun, seek medical attention.


The best way to prevent sun poisoning is to cover up before you go out in direct sunlight. Avoid being outside during times of the day where the sun is directly overhead. Wear a high SPF sunscreen at all time while outdoors. Drinking plenty of water, and staying cool can also help prevent sun poisoning.


If you feel you have been exposed to sun poisoning you do have treatment options. First, remove yourself from direct contact with the sun, preferably somewhere cool. Drink plenty of water to start rehydrating your body. A cool (but not ice cold) compress applied to the area can also help relieve the swelling and pain associated with sun burn and sun poisoning. If a UV rash develops the doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid cream or prednisone if necessary.