20 Ways a Sunburn Harms Your Overall Health

After the redness fades, the real problems begin.

20 Ways a Sunburn Harms Your Overall Health

After the redness fades, the real problems begin.

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Ah, summer. Finally, a perfect time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather. Forgo sunscreen during your outdoor loafing, though, and you’re all but certain to end up with a nasty burn. In many cases, you’re only stuck with it for a day or two—three if you’re unlucky. But after the redness fades, the real problems begin.

Indeed, sunburns can lead to some obvious damage, like peeling skin and, in extreme cases, melanoma, but did you know that they can also cause visual inflammation? Or pounds-at-a-time bloating? Or severe hives outbreaks? Yes, a sunburn is more than just an inconvenience—it’s a serious health issue. To keep you aware, we’ve rounded up the twenty most insidious side effects. Read on, and see why you never want to forget the SPF50 again. And to make sure you’re lathering it as effectively as you can, brush up on these 15 Hacks to Apply Your Sunscreen More Easily.

woman sneezing sick on the couch

1
It Destroys Your Immune System

When the skin gets sunburned, the body’s supply of Langerhan cells is wiped out. These immune cells are the first line of defense against infections that infiltrate the skin; without them, our body is more vulnerable to illness. And it’s not just the sunburnt area that’s affected: Studies show that the immune response throughout the body is altered when the skin gets burnt. And for more ways to stay healthy as the mercury rises, check out the 15 Genius Ways to Outsmart Mosquitoes This Summer.

cold sore

2
It Causes Cold Sores To Surface

If you suffer from Herpes simplex virus, sitting outside without sunscreen is a very bad idea. As the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, overexposure to sunlight weakens the immune system and in turn causes the virus to act up. One study found that when 38 patients with Herpes went outside without sunscreen, 27 developed cold sores; when they put sunscreen on, not a single one had a flair-up. You do the math.

belly bloat mirror fat

3
It Makes You Bloated

Sunburns cause an inflammatory response that signal the body to hold on to fluid. This water retention can get so severe that one woman reported gaining 7 pounds from a sunburn alone. If you do start to feel a bit bloated, try these 30 Ways To Feel Better About Your Body Instantly.

puffy eyes hurt glasses

4
It Hurts Your Eyes

Just like every other part of your body, your eyes are vulnerable to the damaging UV rays of the sun. But the eyes are especially at risk, given that it’s nearly impossible to protect them with traditional sunscreen. If you’re not careful, you may end up with Photokeratitis or Photoconjunctivitis. Though reversible, these inflammatory conditions are extremely painful and don’t make it fun to blink.

nauseous woman vomiting over sink

5
It Leads To Flu-Like Symptoms

As if the pain from the burn isn’t enough, Medical News Today reports that other sunburn symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting—the same symptoms you’d find yourself with during flu season. Ready to fight back against the UV rays? Beat the Summer Sun With These 10 Skin Care Products.

Woman with Lupus

6
It Triggers Lupus Flare-Ups

Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from lupus, an autoimmune disease that prompts the body to attack healthy tissue. The disease can become dormant, but one way that people with lupus can bring about symptoms is by getting a sunburn. “Sunlight may trigger a lupus rash and it can also trigger symptoms of joint pain and fatigue,” Amita Bishnoi, M.D., told Everyday Health.

pregnant women

7
It Puts A Pregnancy At Risk

With a bun in the oven, a woman needs to be careful not to do anything that might harm the baby. Of course, every mom knows not to smoke and drink while pregnant, but even something as simple as getting a sunburn can potentially lead to birth defects, preterm labor, or even a miscarriage, as PhysicianOne Urgent Care warns.

woman drinking a glass of water

8
It Dehydrates You

Sunburned skin draws fluid to the surface and hogs it from the rest of the body, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. This lack of fluid causes you to become dehydrated, which can in turn lead to dizziness and muscle fatigue. Sunburns aren’t the only thing you have to worry about this summer—these are the 15 Biggest Health Mistakes People Make in Summer.

woman on crutches with cast

9
It Can Immobilize You

Last summer, the story of a runner’s horrific sunburn went viral after it left her with blisters up and down her legs. “The healing process has been painful—the burning and throbbing as the blisters have filled was a horrendous experience,” UK resident Julie Nisbet told BuzzFeed at the time. “The pressure in my legs when standing/walking has also been agonizing at times.” Not only did the blisters leave her bandaged and immobile, but doctors also warned that the second-degree burns could lead to infections down the road if she wasn’t careful. Yikes.

skin rash

10
It Gives You Hives

People who take medications like tetracyclines or even certain birth controls may come home from a day at the beach and notice that they’re breaking out in hives. This phenomenon, known as solar urticaria, doesn’t normally last for more than 24 hours, but it’s painful and not aesthetically pleasing, especially during shorts season.

woman with acne face

11
It Makes Acne Worse

Overexposure to the sun dries out the skin—and for people with acne, this only makes a bad problem worse. Even if you aren’t dealing with chronic acne, a bad bout in the sun can increase the body’s production of sebum, which promotes breakouts.

pregnancy test

12
It Impacts Fertility

Too much time in the sun can hurt a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. That’s because a study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology found that too much sun leads to below-average folic acid levels, which has been linked to neural tube defects and miscarriage. Speaking of pregnancy, every mom will appreciate these 30 Funniest Celebrity Quotes about Being Pregnant.

Man Having Trouble Breathing Sun

13
It Leaves You Out Of Breath

Feeling breathless is something of an accomplishment after a long workout, but it isn’t something you hope for after napping poolside. One of the not-so-fun side effects of heat stroke is rapid and shallow breathing; should you experience a heatstroke, the Mayo Clinic advises seeking immediate medical treatment.

Man Having a Heart Attack

14
It Can Lead To A Stroke

Arguably one of the most important organs in the body, the heart needs to be protected at all costs. Unfortunately, too much sun exposure means unnaturally high levels of vitamin D, which scientists have linked to a stroke or a heart attack down the line.

doctor inspecting tonsils

15
Your Tongue Can Swell Up

The lips are made of skin, so naturally, they can get sunburnt too. And when that sunburn is severe, it can lead to swelling of the tongue, blistering, and difficulty breathing. Luckily, several brands make lip balms with SPF protected, so we can keep our lips healthy (and hydrated) all season long.

man looking in the mirror for wrinkles

16
It Ages The Skin

Women and men alike spend hours a week looking for the ultimate anti-aging cure, but few stop to consider the long-lasting effects of the sun on their skin. When we get sunburned, we are hurting cells called fibroblasts that produce collagen, leaving our skin defenseless against wrinkles and other damage.

woman itchy scratching in bed

17
It Makes You Itchy Beyond Relief

In rare instances, a bad sunburn can lead to what one writer described as a “debilitating, madness-inducing itch.” “I was cycling home from the office when the itch began,” Tristin Hopper wrote in the National Post. “With the urgency of a man covered by tickets, I raced to my building as fast as I could. Shaking with distress—and now able to scream an unending stream of profanity without anyone calling the police—I tore off my clothes and jumped into an ice-cold shower. That, too, only made things worse.”

Scaly patch psoriasis

18
It Triggers Psoriasis

Current studies estimate that as many as 7.5 million Americans live with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that causes patches of itchy, thickened skin to develop. Though doctors don’t know what causes psoriasis to develop in each individual case, one of the known triggers is—you guessed it—a bad sunburn.

Heat Rash Sun

19
And Worsens Other Autoimmune Diseases

Myositis is an autoimmune disease that weakens the muscles. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, women who developed myositis while exposed to high levels of UV rays were more likely to develop an even worse form of the disease known as dermatomyositis, which causes painful rashes in addition to the muscle weakness.

man with headache migraine

20
It Gives You A Throbbing Headache

If you already suffer from headaches or migraines, then overexposure to the sun is likely to make it worse. And even if you aren’t inflicted with mind-numbing migraine pain on a regular basis, sun glare and sun poisoning are known to cause headaches in all types of individuals. Luckily, the sun isn’t all bad. In fact, sunshine may be your ultimate weight loss weapon.

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