Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Sun Poisoning or Sun Stroke?

What's the difference between sun poisoning and sunstroke?

Answer (Published 1/27/2010)

Sunstroke is another name for heatstroke, a medical emergency that occurs when the body overheats to the point that it can no longer regulate its internal temperature. Sun poisoning is a layman's term for the symptoms that can accompany a bad sunburn - nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, headache and, in general, feeling pretty sick.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Some people are overly sensitive to sun exposure - in effect, they have a sun "allergy," usually an itchy rash that develops as a result of an immune system reaction to sunlight. Some of these reactions are inherited and some may be worsened by medications, including certain antibiotics or herbs such as St. John's wort. They also can be due to the interaction of the sun's rays with perfumes, soaps and other substances on your skin. A severe sunburn can be the start of this problem, which can increase over time until people cannot tolerate any sun exposure at all.

I'm sure that everyone knows that repeated, excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, both the more common curable types and the more dangerous, potentially life-threatening melanoma. Sun damage can also cause cataracts to develop in the eyes as well as other types of eye problems including degeneration of the macula, the part of the retina where visual perception is most acute. Always wear sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV rays. In addition, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can suppress proper functioning of the body's immune system.

The best ways to protect yourself from sun-related problems are to stay out of the sun when it's at a high angle in the sky, to wear hats and protective clothing, and to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (apply it at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun and reapply it every two hours). Choose a sunscreen containing Parsol 1789, an ingredient that protects against both ultraviolet A rays that cause sun damage and deep skin wrinkling, as well as the ultraviolet B rays responsible for sunburn and skin cancer.

Having said that, I recommend trying to enjoy some time in the sun every day without sunscreen protection in order to optimize levels of vitamin D, which is made in the body with exposure to sunlight. In the U.S. latitudes south of Atlanta, only a few minutes daily is required to raise vitamin D to appropriately high levels, which are critical for healthy bones and protection against many forms of cancer and multiple sclerosis. In more northern latitudes, the sun is at too low an angle for half the year to provide sufficient UV radiation. Also, many people throughout the U.S. wear sunscreen, which blocks "D" synthesis. That's why I recommend 2,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily, no matter where you live.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here