MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Does sun poisoning leave a red, itchy rash on the skin?

Date: Sun Sep 19 10:13:04 1999
Posted By: Samuel Conway, Senior Scientist, Message Pharmaceuticals, Malvern, PA
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 929120593.Me

I fear that this answer likely comes too late to relieve your suffering.  
Let's hope that it comes in handy next time.

"Sun poisoning" is a term used to describe second-degree burns to the skin
due to overexposure to solar radiation; in other words, sunburn that starts
to blister.  It can be very painful in the early stages, and as time goes
on, the blisters become maddeningly itchy.  This is due to the body's own
rapair mechanisms going to work under the skin.  That, however, is little
comfort to the sufferer.

The danger with sun poisoning is that the blisters may rupture.  When this
happens, there is a danger of infection.  Any creams or ointments must be
applied *very carefully* to avoid breaking any of the blisters.  I would
recommend an antibiotic ointment, which will help defend against infection
should a blister break, and particularly one which contains lidocaine, or
some other agent specifically for the treatment of pain and itching.  A 
bit of benadryl or other antihistamine will help alleviate the itching as

(Please note that I am not a medical doctor, and am merely passing on that
advice which was given to me by my personal physician when I suffered a
case of sun poisoning.  I recommend that you contact your own physician 
should you ever suffer such overexposure to the sun again.)

On a final note, be aware that there is strong evidence to link over-
exposure to the sun to skin cancer.  It is best to avoid the sun, and to
wear a strong sunblock if you cannot.

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