Carefree M.D. Blog

Feeling Sun Sick? Sun Poisoning Info and Risks

Carefree MD

April 01, 2021 | Blog

A fun day outside can quickly turn sour if you’re feeling sun sick. If you spent all day in the sun without protection, you may get sun poisoning. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and risks of sun poisoning, and find out how you can treat your sun sickness immediately.

What Is Sun Sickness?

Sun sickness or sun poisoning is the effect of extended exposure to the harmful UV rays of the sun. While it’s called poisoning, it’s more like a sunburn. 
Skin burn and inflammation are the most common signs that you have sun sickness. But, you may also experience other symptoms, such as fever or nausea. 
There are various risk factors that can make your sun sickness more severe. And the damage from sun poisoning usually lasts 2-3 days.

Symptoms of Sun Poisoning

Your symptoms of sun poisoning vary based on your personal risk factors and the severity of the sunburn. Usually, common symptoms of sun poisoning are:

  • Skin redness and blistering
  • Pain and tingling
  • Swelling
  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration

If you have these symptoms shortly after spending an extended period of time in the sun, it’s safe to assume that you have sun sickness.

Levels of Sunburns

Many people find a healthy tan glow attractive. However, spending a lot of time in the sun is bad for your skin. Usually, everybody goes through three levels of sunburn. 
Your skin type, the protection you use, and the time you spend outside can all influence how your skin reacts to sun exposure.


Getting a tan isn’t as healthy as you think. Dermatologists say that the tan you get from the sun or a tanning bed is your skin’s natural reaction to UV light. It produces melanin, which turns your skin to a darker color. If you spend a lot of time tanning, you put yourself at risk of skin cancer.


A sunburn is a little bit more severe than a tan. And not just because it’s painful. At this point, the sun’s UV radiation damages the DNA of your skin cells. Your immune system responds by sending inflammatory cells to your skin. That’s why swelling, redness, and pain are common symptoms of a sunburn.
Getting a sunburn isn’t an immediate reaction to the sun. It can happen even hours after you come back inside. Luckily, sunburn is easy to prevent.


If your sunburn has blisters, you’re experiencing second-degree sunburns. This is a clear sign of a severe burn. The blisters are your body’s natural reaction to protect your skin from infection.
You shouldn’t pop sunburn blisters. Take care of them by taking cool showers, using moisturizer, and taking pain medication. Avoid additional sun exposure to the burnt area until the blisters have healed.

What Risk Factors Make You More Sun Sick?

Not everybody reacts to the sun the same way. Some people are more prone to sunburns than others. Generally, these risk factors can make your sun sickness more severe:

  • Your skin’s shade: Fair-skinned people often don’t tan. Instead, they’re more prone to burn. That’s because their skin lacks sufficient melanin to protect them from the UV rays of the sun. 
  • The protection you use: There are various ways you can protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. The more sunscreen, body covering, and shade you have, the better you’ll feel when you’re sick from the sun.
  • The time you spent in the sun: The longer you’re exposed, the more severe your burns can be. Additionally, the sun shines stronger around noon. An hour in the sun between noon and one can be more damaging than two hours in the afternoon.
  • Your geographic location: The strength of the sun varies between continents. An hour in the sun in Australia could give you much more serious burns than in Norway. However, regardless of your location, you should always protect yourself from the sun if you know you’re going to be exposed.

6 Steps to Treat Sun Sickness

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of sun sickness, make sure you follow these 6 steps to treat your symptoms and recover faster:

  1. Get out of the sun.
  2. Take a cool (not cold) shower or bath. Alternatively, apply cool compresses.
  3. Drink extra fluids for the next few days.
  4. Take pain relief medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  5. Use a moisturizer, aloe gel, or after-sun cream.
  6. Before you go outside again, make sure you completely cover burnt areas.

If you’re feeling nauseous or feverish, make sure you take plenty of rest. You’ll feel better soon, but you need to let your body recover from sun sickness.

How to Prevent Prevent Feeling Sun Sick

It’s easy to prevent feeling sick from the sun. These three tricks to prevent sunburn aren’t just easy. They absolutely don’t limit you from having fun in the sun. Enjoy your time outside without the discomfort or pain of sunburn with these tips:

  • Apply sunscreen: Wearing sunscreen is crucial when you go into the sun. SPF 30 or above can help protect you against sun damage. Make sure you apply it 15-30 minutes before you’re in the sun. Reapply regularly, especially if you’re swimming.
  • Limit your sun exposure: The sun is strongest between 10 am and 2 pm. Avoid being outside at these times. Remember, the surfaces around you can reflect the sun easily. Water, sand, or snow can cause second-hand sunburn as well.
  • Wear protective clothing: Wearing a T-shirt, scarf, hat, or sunglasses can go a long way in protecting you from the sun.

 When to See a Doctor If You’re Sun Sick

While the symptoms of sun sickness disappear quickly. But, in some cases, the burns or symptoms from the sun may be so severe that you need to seek immediate medical attention. 
These symptoms include:

  • A sunburn that forms blisters, covers a large area or is very painful
  • Fever and chills
  • Facial swelling
  • Headache, confusion, or faintness
  • Upset stomach
  • Signs of dehydration

If you have any of these symptoms, please don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor. Luckily, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to do that. Just book an online consultation appointment with Carefree MD to talk about your sun poisoning symptoms. 

Our board-certified doctors can offer you quality medical advice on treating your sunburns. Plus, you get 24/7, unlimited access to a doctor on call. All you need to talk to one of our online doctors is the Carefree MD Card. Learn more!


The Carefree MD blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed doctor or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree MD Card is not insurance and Carefree MD is not an insurance provider.