Almost everyone, regardless of skin color, has experienced the discomfort of sunburn, said Kevin M. Wong, MD, Westmoreland Family Medicine \u2013 UPMC.\nItchy, peeling skin that’s sensitive to touch is never fun during the summer months. Yet it’s often difficult to judge when exactly sun exposure can be serious. How do we tell the difference between sunburn from sun poisoning?\nIs It Sunburn or Sun Poisoning?\nSometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between sunburn and sun poisoning. While a sunburn is redness of the skin that will go away after a few days, sun poisoning is a more serious irritation that manifests in hives and blisters. Some people call these hives a “sun rash,” a rash on a sunburn.\nSunburn Symptoms\nSunburn occurs when you expose your skin to the sun for a length of time, causing irritation and redness. How severe your sunburn is depends on your location, length of exposure, and skin type. Some symptoms of sunburn include:\n\nRedness of the skin\nSwelling\nItchiness or tenderness\nSkin that’s hot or warm to the touch\n\nA severe sunburn may lead to flu-like symptoms and other symptoms like sun poisoning. However, a severe sunburn does not result in rashes or hives.\n\nSun Poisoning Symptoms\nSun poisoning, unlike a sunburn, is your skin’s allergic reaction to excessive amounts of UV rays. It happens when you’ve been out in the sun for long periods of time without proper protection. It often manifests in blisters or a sun rash, although severity depends on length of exposure.\nIts symptoms are often additional to, and more serious, than those of a sunburn. Some of these include:\n\nHives or rash covering a sunburn, also known as a sun rash\nBlisters\nDehydration\nHeadache or dizziness\nFever or chills\nNausea\n\nIf you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, move to a cool, shaded area out of direct sunlight.\nFind a UPMC primary care physician. Call 1-855-676-UPMCPCP (8762)\u00a0or visit\u00a0UPMC Find a Doctor. For more information, visit the\u00a0UPMC Primary Care website.\u00a0\nTreatment for Sun Poisoning\nMost sunburns and sun poisoning can be treated similarly and at home. Some ways to reduce pain or discomfort:\n\nRehydrate\u00a0with water or other drinks that contain electrolytes\nSoothe the irritated area with a cool (but not cold) compress or aloe vera gel\nAvoid scratching your sun rash or popping blisters\nGently exfoliate peeling skin\nAvoid additional sun exposure\nFor more pain relief and to minimize swelling, Dr. Wong recommends ibuprofen or naproxen\n\nIf your symptoms include severe nausea, fever, or dizziness, call a doctor for advice.\nTreat #sunburn by re-hydrating with drinks that have electrolytes and applying aloe. Click To Tweet\nProtecting Your Skin from the Sun\nThe best way to avoid sunburn or sun poisoning is prevention. If you’re planning on being out in the sun for long periods, cover up with long sleeves or a “broad-brimmed” hat, adds Dr. Wong. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to block any harmful UV rays. When using sunscreen, apply 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and every two hours afterward.\n“Remember to reapply after long exposure or getting wet,” says Dr. Wong. Swimming and sweating can wash away your skin’s protection.\nLastly, don’t depend on sunscreen and other protection to block all sun. If you begin burning or if your skin is red, bumpy, or irritated from exposure, move to a shaded area. Taking good care of your skin can help prevent melanoma and other skin cancers.