Too Much Sun Exposure

Spending Too Much Time in the Sun Can Be Deadly

England - London - Three city office workers sunbathe during hot lunchtime
Too much time in the sun can leave you dehydrated, overheated, or both.. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Too much sun exposure can have serious repercussions. Most people love to spend time outside on sunny days, but too much time under our closest star can lead to problems ranging from embarrassing to life-threatening. Below are some of the most common problems that sun exposure can lead.

Sunburn

This is the standard problem with too much sun exposure. Sunburns often affect only the surface of the skin, but they can go deeper and actually cause serious skin damage.

Deep sunburns that cover enough of the body's surface area can be life-threatening.

Also, sunburns do not only happen on hot days. Sun exposure burns with radiation rather than with heat, which is why we can be burned while snow skiing or on an overcast day. Covering up is your best bet for avoiding sunburns, but you also need to know how to treat a sunburn.

Dehydration

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, particularly on sunny, hot days. Anything that leads to sweating or an increased respiratory rate is drying you out (the air that moves in and out when we breathe hard is picking up moisture on the inside of our lungs and carrying it away).

Exposure to the sun dries us out without any help, but when alcohol is consumed, dehydration is even worse. Alcohol is a diuretic--it makes you pee--and if more water is going out of your body, you need even more water coming in. Indeed, a hangover is at least partly due to dehydration.

Untreated, dehydration can lead to shock and possibly become life-threatening. Vomiting and diarrhea make it worse, so travelers, especially those traveling to tropical places, should keep an eye out for dehydration symptoms

Heat Exhaustion

Too much sun exposure on hot days can raise the body's temperature enough to cause heat exhaustion.

This condition combines an increase in the body's core temperature with dehydration

If you don't treat heat exhaustion, it can lead to heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can usually be reversed by cooling the person off and getting some fluids into her. If you're diligent, a person with heat exhaustion might not need to be seen by a doctor.

On the other hand, there's no question that heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that needs emergency medical treatment. If you think someone is suffering from heat exposure and they're confused or unconscious, call 911 immediately.

Water Intoxication

The opposite problem of dehydration is water intoxication (hyponatremia). This very rare condition comes most commonly from sweating all day and only drinking water. It's important to get electrolytes in the body as well as water. If you don't feel like eating on a hot day when you're sweating a lot, drink sports drinks instead of water.

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