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Spotting Sun Poisoning and Dehydration

Written by S.O.

Posted on June 29, 2015 at 9:05 pm

This year, the Fourth of July happens to fall on a Saturday. The forecast for Saturday just so happens to feature blazing sunrays. Combine these two factors: holiday + beautiful weather = outdoors all day. But while you are embracing the beautiful day, be wary of Mother Nature. The last thing you want is to head back into the office Monday with sun burnt skin.

Sun Poisoning
Some people don’t struggle with sunburn, but for those that are like me, I feel like I can never possibly wear enough sun block. These differing reactions to sun exposure are caused by two types of melanin, but in two different amounts depending on the person’s skin-type. Specifically, dark-skinned individuals produce more eumelanin which gives them a deeper skin tone and protects against sun burns. People with fair skin produce pheomelanin. Pheomelanin does not brown. It only reddens the skin. Each person has differing combinations of eumelanin and pheomelanin, creating different and unique reactions to the sun.

If you are spending the day in the sun this upcoming Fourth, be sure to familiarize yourself with sun poisoning symptoms. Fair skinned people (particularly those with red hair) are more susceptible to sun poisoning and severe sunburn. Sunburn can occur in as quickly as 15 minutes from direct exposure, whereupon the skin will start to become hot and red as a result of blood rushing to the area. Sunburns are incredibly painful and can last up to a week, with skin normally drying and peeling. However, sun poisoning is a very severe burn, where it is crucial to seek professional medical care in order to protect yourself.

Sun poisoning is characterized by a series of symptoms including:

• Nausea • Fever • Headache • Dizziness • Chills • Blisters • Rapid Pulse • Heavy Breathing • Dehydration • Shock • Loss of consciousness

In the case of the last three symptoms, it is important to seek professional medical care immediately.

Treatment
No one likes to be sunburned. There are many options that just might do the trick to cure you of your pain. The first and most well known burn remedy is an aloe lotion or cooling cream, helping to slow and settle the rush of blood to the area of skin. Aloe vera gel contains aloectin B, which kick-starts the immune system. Cold compresses and cold baths are always a good option to soothe the pain temporarily as well. It is important to treat your skin incredibly cautiously when burned, because certain chemicals can irritate the skin further and increase risks of bleeding or scarring. Do not use lotions with topical anesthetics because these can irritate the skin. Additionally, it is important not to use a thick ointment that has the potential to stop air from reaching the skin, as this will slow the healing process. In severe cases, a Doctor may prescribe a painkiller, but most often ibuprofen like Advil or Tylenol can ease the pain sufficiently. Peak sunburn effects generally come about 12 to 24 hours after exposure.

As a preventative measure, we recommend wearing sunscreen on a daily basis even if you are not planning on spending much time in the sun that day. The sun’s rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, so be particularly protective of your skin during these times. If you’re in the South, again, be extra cautious. The Southern U.S. gets 1.5 times as much sun as the Northern U.S.

Dehydration
Similar to sunburns, dehydration can range from mild to severe. We lose water from our bodies on a daily basis through breathing and digestion. Additionally, spending time in the sun causes us to sweat and lose water. Drinking alcohol and coffee contribute to the loss of water. Dehydration is defined as a condition where the body loses fluids faster than the amount that it is being taken in. Most people typically function at a slightly dehydrated level, but excess drinking and time in the sun (think Fourth of July) expedite and worsen the effects of this phenomenon. As a general rule, by the time that you are thirsty, you are already partially dehydrated. Combining alcoholic beverages tangles the mix, because it is often easy to feel hydrated on drinks when really alcohol strips the body of needed fluids.

Dehydration is characterized by these symptoms:

• Dry mouth • Increased thirst • Weakness • Dizziness • Heart palpitations • Confusion • Sluggishness • Fainting • Inability to sweat in hot conditions

Treatment
If these symptoms occur, sipping small quantities of water, particularly fluids infused with electrolytes, can bring the person’s hydration back to healthy level. Sucking on ice chips or popsicles made of sports drinks is also a good alternative. In all circumstances, it is important to remove excess clothing and get the dehydrated person to an air-conditioned space immediately. It is imperative to seek medical attention if headaches, difficulty breathing, chest pains, vomiting, weight loss, confusion, diarrhea, or fever conditions signify the dehydration.

This upcoming beautiful Fourth of July, don’t find yourself caught by the sun! Take precautionary measures by wearing sunblock, minimizing direct sun exposure, and carrying a water bottle. Alcoholic drinks and sweating expedite the process of dehydration, so be sure to watch your limits. In any case of emergency, we are here for you at DocChat, just 15 minutes away!

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