Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What is the difference between a sunburn and sun poisoning?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat is the difference between a sunburn and sun poisoning?


Does sun poisoning make you sick? Like sick to your stomach? I got a bad sunburn and now I don't feel very good at all. I think the too are connected. What should I do if I have sun poisoning?


Sun poisoning is a term that can be used to describe a couple different conditions. It is really more of a lay term than a medical term. Most people use the term sun poisoning to describe a really bad sunburn. The typical symptoms of this really bad burn are nausea, headache, chills, pain on the skin, occasional blisters, and generally feeling bad. Sun poisoning is treated in the same way that sunburns are, and it resolves in the same way. Any type of soothing cream that you would use for a sunburn would work. Another condition where the term sun poisoning is sometimes used to describe is photodermatitis. This is a condition where excess sunlight causes an allergic type reaction in the skin resulting in a rash that looks and feels somewhat like poison ivy. This type of rash is treated differently than sunburns. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can examine your skin closely to see if you just got a really bad sunburn (which is much more common than photodermatitis). If your "sun poisoning" is a bad sunburn, then your doctor will recommend you use sunscreen to protect your skin in the future. Good luck.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.