When summer comes around, everybody takes to the beaches to enjoy fun-filled afternoons in the sun, or swim in their backyards. This is a wonderful time for everyone, unless you inadvertently spend too much time in the sun, without enough sunscreen. Over-exposure to the sun can give you a bad sunburn, especially around the lips and nose. Sun anaphylaxis, or sunburn is unsightly and uncomfortable, and you should see a doctor as soon as you notice signs of over-exposure.
The rays of the sun have destructive UVA and UVB radiation and these affect the cells of the skin, drying them up, and leading to sun poisoning. Sometimes the sun can affect the cells of the lips leading to serious blistering of the lips. This is what is known as sun poisoning of the lips. Suffering from sun poisoning does not mean that you have actually been poisoned; the term refers to the severe sunburn that you get from too much sunlight.
As mentioned above, too much exposure to the sun is the cause of sun poisoning of the lips, but this does not affect every individual. Melanin in the skin helps keep out the harmful effects of the sun; a natural sunscreen, so to speak. People who have enough melanin have dark skin and this is the reason why sun poisoning of the lips affects people with fair skin. When you have light skin and do not wear enough sunscreen, then you can suffer from this condition even after being exposed to strong sunlight for just a few minutes.
Symptoms of sun poisoning of the lips
At first, you will not notice any effect; you may experience a mild burning sensation, but you may not pay attention to it, since it is not too strong. However, after a while, the skin around your lips will begin to feel taught due to the dryness. This will be accompanied by severe reddening of the skin around the lips. After some time, there will be blistering around the lips, and this may worsen in the days to come. The skin will also peel off and leave the lips with several sores. Sun poisoning of the lips may make it difficult to speak, smile, eat or drink. If the rest of the body has been exposed, nausea, headaches, fever and chills may occur. You may also feel dehydrated and dizzy; if you feel severely affected, you should get out of the sun quickly and then seek medical attention.
As mentioned above, you should get out of the sun immediately. Then take a cool shower, or wash the lips with very cold water; cold compresses can also be used in some cases. The next few days are very important, since you have to keep your body hydrated. You should also put some moistening balm on the lips, preferably with Aloe Vera to alleviate the feeling of dryness and also reduce the chaffing of the skin. You should also wear a hat when you go put, making sure that it covers the lips with some shade at all times. Taking a good painkiller will help with the pain.
In some cases, the sun poisoning may spread to other parts of the face, and these may need some medical attention. If your face begins to swell, and you have headaches, confusion, or feel faint, then you should see a doctor.
In the case of sun poisoning of the lips, prevention is the best course to take. If you know you will spend a lot of time in the sun, you should wear a sunscreen that has an SPF of about 30. The label should also have the words “Broad Spectrum”, meaning that it stops both UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen should be worn 15 to 30 minutes before venturing into the sun and should be reapplied several times in a day, preferably after every two hours. You should also avoid being out in the sun in the late afternoon, so go to the beach, or take a swim from 10am to 2pm.
Note that there are substances that can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Water, snow and sand can leave your skin unprotected, even when you have put sunscreen. If you are taking a swim, reapply the sunscreen when you get out of the water. Take a wide-brimmed hat with you, providing your face with shade; also invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Medications can also make your skin sensitive to the sun, especially those for acne, eczema, birth control, antidepressants and antibiotics. Some heart condition medicines also have this effect. When you are on medication, always ask your doctor if they have this effect before going out into the sun for long periods.