Sun Poisoning Symptoms: How Long Does it Last & Remedies

Sun Poisoning and Sunburn are basically the same. The skin gets burnt by the sun, and becomes red, very painful, hot to the touch and swollen. It may even be blistered. The difference is that if the burn is severe or extensive, you may also suffer from chills, nausea fever and vomiting. So while the symptoms are similar in one way, those who experience a hypersensitive reaction are said to suffer from sun poisoning.

What Causes

Both conditions are caused by too much exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Even on overcast days, caution should be taken, because the sun’s UV rays are not screened out by thick clouds as you may think. Tanning bed rays are also responsible for severe burning or sun poisoning.

What makes one person’s skin more sensitive to sun exposure than others? It is a fact that people who do not have much have melanin in their skin, particularly fair skinned people with blue eyes and blond or red hair are at more risk for sunburn. These people should take extra precaution, but everyone should be cautious about being the sun in the middle of the day when the sun is at its height. However, certain medications such as tetracyclines, amoxicillin, oral contraceptives, sulfa-containing drugs and some diuretics can also increase one’s sensitivity to the sun.

Type of Sun Poisoning

There are two types of sun poisoning. The first is presented by a redness of the skin with a small rash appearing and although it is uncomfortable it don’t cause too much discomfort. Type two is more severe and involves heat stroke and sunstroke. When this happens the cause is by losing fluid from the body as well as the electrolytes. Sun poison happens when we get too much of a good thing. There are certain environmental factors that can worsen sunburn such as cosmetics or medication but some people don’t need any outside help, they get sun poisoning from just too much sun. We need to understand the progression of sunburn.

How Long Does Sun Poisoning Last

Usually you will experience the effect while exposing to the sunlight after 1/2 – 1 hour and the pain will prolong for about 2 days. It depends on the severity on how long you will get rid of the symptoms:

  • Mild cases: up to 3 days
  • Severe cases: one week or 10days, might be longer sometimes
Symptoms Time
Rashes 3 days
Swelling up to 24 hours
Pain within 1 day in mild cases
up to 2 days in severe cases


Tenderness or redness

If you have spent too much time in the sun you may notice that your skin becomes very tender. There may be an unusual redness that covers the area along with the redness there may be a surface rash. This is the first symptoms of sun burn which can lead to sun poisoning if you stay in the sun.


Your skin will start to itch after a certain amount of exposure to the sun. This itching may persist for days after. This is the body’s way of trying to repair the damage that’s been done. You may find it is an itch that you can’t scratch due to the amount of pain that you endure when you scratch it.


After the itching starts you will notice the raising of blisters on the worse part of your skin. Don’t break these blisters on your own. They are protecting the injured area from infection. Blisters will be filled with fluid and may break on their own after some time but the covering of the blister is still there to protect your body from infection. Blisters will eventually peel off on their own once the body is healed.


If your condition is severe enough it may be accompanied by a fever. This is your body’s immune system trying to fight off the damage that is done to it. This may also be accompanied by chills. You will probably feel very hot and cold at the same time. In reality your skin has been cooked and this is your body’s reaction to the insult of sun poisoning.


If you develop flu like symptoms don’t be alarmed, it is another symptom of sun poisoning. The fever and chills can be somewhat misleading making you think you’re coming down with the flu. These symptoms can also be accompanied by sick stomach and throwing up which are all symptoms of the flu.


Fatigue is another symptom. You may feel unusually tired and experience some dizziness. If you have all these symptoms it is time to seek medical attention. Sun poisoning can be very dangerous.


Dehydration is a major part of sun poisoning and a symptom that should be attended to immediately. This means that your body has lost too much fluid and electrolytes. You must get yourself re-hydrated as soon as possible. You have to replace the loss of the fluids very quickly by drinking water and lots of it. If the electrolytes are not balanced in the body they need replenishing. Sometimes this may require medical intervention. You will know when you have sun poisoning by the symptoms you experience.

How to Treat

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of getting sunburned knows how uncomfortable and painful they can be. Of course, we should all take preventative steps to avoid getting burnt by the sun. But at this point, the damage is done. So what are some home remedies that can ease the pain?


Aspirin or Tylenol can prevent the tightening or swelling of sunburned skin and will help to relieve some of the pain. 2 pills every 4 hours or so will keep the discomfort to a minimum. If you know that you have had too much sun exposure and expect a burn even though the telltale redness has not occurred, taking aspirin or Tylenol will give you a head start on controlling the pain.

Cold water

Cold water is another natural treatment. Make cool, wet compresses that you can lay on your heated skin. A simple washrag can be used. When the compress looses it’s coolness and starts absorbing the heat from your body, remove it and dip in cool water again, or add ice cubes. Other ideas for compresses include oatmeal, skim milk and witch hazel.


The kitchen offers a variety of possible options. Yogurt smoothed on to the burnt areas and then rinsed off with cool water is soothing to your parched skin. Cornstarch added to water can be used to create a paste that you can apply directly to your skin.


1 cup of vinegar or a liberal sprinkling of baking soda into a tub of cool water makes for a soothing soak. Immerse your body and relax for awhile. Avoid soap as they have a drying affect, and don’t forget to slather on lotion when you get out of your bath.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera has long been known to ease the burning associated with over exposure to the sun. If you have an aloe plant, break off part of the leaf then apply the liquid to your skin.


Remember to drink plenty of fluids! Sunburns dehydrate us. Moisture in the skin is quickly evaporated due to the heat coming from it. Dehydration can actually be very painful on it’s own. When mixed with a sunburn, you are sure to have some pain.

Relaxing in front of a fan and letting the air flow over your aching body may provide some relief. Do not wear tight or restrictive clothing when you have a sunburn. Ventilation is important for a quicker recovery.