When Is It Sun Poisoning?

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In about the same amount of time it takes for you to warm up after stepping outside, your skin can incur enough damage to show a sunburn hours later. This is especially dangerous for you alabaster beauties whose skin seems immune to heroic applications of triple-digit SPF. And, impossible as it may be to imagine, there is something worse that sunburn: sun poisoning. This condition has nothing to do with poison, but has earned its scary moniker because of how painful it can be, compared to regular-old sunburn (which hardly feels like a cuddle with a kitten, either). Here’s how to tell when you need to take more measures than just squeezing some aloe on your shoulders.

Sun poisoning not only sticks you with the telltale, hot-to-the-touch, pink skin of sunburn; you'll also have a few more extreme (but still treatable) symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, chills, or fever. Basically, if you come back from a day at the beach with a sunburn and flu-like symptoms, you can guess the culprit. Start treating sun poisoning at home by staying inside, drinking lots of water, using aloe or a gentle moisturizer, and even popping a few ibuprofen to ease the pain; sunburns and sun poisoning are both essentially major blisters on your skin. Sun poisoning usually doesn't reach the point where you need to up the ante and call your doctor — but if your case is so intense that you start to feel faint, head to a hospital.

You can prevent sun poisoning with the same methods you’d use to thwart a regular sunburn (sunscreen, sun hat, etc.) Be extra-vigilant in response to your area’s UV index, especially if you're fair-skinned. That, or really learn to love the shade.