My kids and I recently visited their old preschool to say hello and catch up with everyone. One of the teachers travels extensively and we love to hear her stories. As I asked her about her travels in summer of 2009, she revealed that her Caribbean stay was not as she has planned. Her husband came down with a serious case of sun poisoning.
"Sun poisoning?", I asked. "What is that?" I know about sunburn and heat exposure and the other damaging effects of heat and sun combined but wasn’t familiar with sun poisoning. What is it, exactly?
First, its official name is photodermatitis. What’s interesting is that it’s not exactly like sunstroke or heat exhaustion. It’s an allergic reaction of the body to the light of the sun, specifically the UV rays of the sun. A person can be affected due to medications they are on, underlying conditions like an autoimmune condition or even the kind of sunscreen used on the skin.
The rays of the sun can actually make the body toxic and recovery can be slow and extremely painful. Our former teacher told us about how swollen her husband became. His feet were unrecognizable and she first assumed he had contacted some form of elephantitis of the feet. He was unable to walk and in extreme pain. Other common signs of possible sun poisoning is sickness and nausea, and a red, painful and itchy rash or blisters on the skin is almost always present.
There is no real way to completely avoid sun poisoning because it’s an allergic reaction that can be caused by unknown factors like diet, medications (including over the counter medications), and the kind of sunscreen used. People taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be more at risk, as well as those taking antibiotics for bacterial concerns – these antibiotics are known as Tretracyclines. Look up sunscreen before applying. Sunscreens that have PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) in their ingredients may put a person at increased risk for sun poisoning due to the ink of PABA to allergies.
Avoiding sun poisoning isn’t always possible. But there are ways to decrease the risks.