Too Much Winter Sun?

Too Much Sun can be a danger for your winter holiday! Are you aware of the winter sun’s dangers when you have fun in the sun?

Protecting your skin from winter sun and sunburn

The dangers are there and because it is cooler, you may not be aware. You don’t want to lose a day of your winter vacation getting over too much sun.

I have known for years that on the 2nd day of our vacation, we were usually all a bit sluggish and not feeling as well as we would like to. Little did I realize that there is a similarity between too much sun and too much alcohol!

I thought we were just tired, and sleeping on different beds. It happens in the winter as well! Pay attention when you take off your ski mask and warmer layers to have some sun time on your winter vacations.

Make sure you don’t get too much sun! Use enough sunscreen to keep your skin from aging, especially your face. Sun block clothing is a great alternative to sunscreen for some parts of your body.

As you enjoy a few minutes of sun on your skin to get the Vitamin D generating in your skin, watch your time. If you apply your sunscreen as you are ready to take a break from your winter sports, you will have about 15 or so minutes before it can start working. This will give you plenty of time to get the sun you need on your skin to start producing Vitamin D.

Can The Sun Make You Feel Sick?

So you’re using sunscreen and staying hydrated, having fun in the sun? It will sometimes come at a price. Too much fun in the sun, even the winter sun can end up leaving you sapped of all energy the next day. This is almost like a ‘sun hangover.’

One of Texas A&M Health Science Center family nurse practitioners explains why this may happen and how to prevent it.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Unfortunately, this is a fact we are either unaware of or just choose to ignore. Too much sun exposure can easily irritate your skin, yes especially if you are high risk and have sensitive skin.

This irritation can create an inflammatory response that goes through your whole body. Remember with winter sun, you have probably not been out in the sun so much. Your skin is more sensitive.

This irritation happens as a result of your body trying to heal and repair when you’re sunburned and have inflammation. Your skin is an organ, and when it’s damaged this activates the entire immune system to mobilize and repair it.

Your overexposure may not seem that bad, but your skin letting you know about the excess sun. Aren’t you glad this is all automatic? I’m glad my skin is wiser than me and will switch to repair and regrow by itself. I would probably keep putting it off until it was too late!

Your immune system may respond even if you have applied your sunscreen.  Sunscreen 101

By Being Aware, You Can Have More Fun

Do you notice an ache all over lethargic feeling after a day with some sun exposure? Or a lot of exposure?

We have these symptoms because the body is, in a sense, battling an attack on your skin. This response to protect, repair, and rebuild is an important function to keep us healthy. This immune response may appear shortly after spending extended time in the sun, or when you’re sunburned. Or it may be the next day.

Most of us aren’t hydrated enough for our busy days on the slopes. When did you add catching a nap that was actually a lengthy sun exposure? Your skin is paying the price for you to have fun in the winter sun.

Remember, even if you might be well-hydrated before the sun-nap, it is important to stay hydrated during the event, too. Oftentimes, our beverage of choice will only make things worse. If you’re consuming alcohol or soda, your body will dehydrate faster.

This will cause longer-lasting symptoms. That’s why water is crucial to replenish and hydrate. While we are all encouraged to drink more water and do a better job with our hydration, there are still times we neglect our water needs.

It Is Winter, Stay Healthy

Important to remind yourself that if you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated. This is true for wintertime as well. Remembering to drink enough water will make you feel so much better.

Using sunscreen before and during all outdoor activates can also help prevent many of those feelings of sun sickness. Protecting your skin with a minimum of a wide spectrum of 30 SPF for UVA/UVB protection is a skin-safe practice.

I prefer sunscreen on my face with sunblocking clothing on the rest of my body. However, I am not as super active as you and your family probably are.

In the wintertime sun, we don’t have as many options for getting out in the sun for a bit. We do have to be responsible for our skin’s care as we may be out at the most direct sun time of the day. This fact makes the wintertime sun very dangerous.

Winter Time Sun And Your Eyes

Because in the wintertime you are not as careful to be out at the safer times of day, sunglasses become extra important.

We should wear good sunglasses anytime we are in the sun. Wintertime causes issues because we are less careful about preparing ahead for skin protection from the sun.

When we leave the house, the sun may not seem dangerous. The “hot” part of the summertime sun is what reminds us to grab the shades. There are dangerous UV rays, summer, and winter.

A sun blocking hat and your sunglasses are the two most important parts of your sun block clothing.

These 2 items need to be a part of your planning when you are getting ready for your winter sun fun break. You will want appropriate clothing to stay warm if you are going to go where it is cold. Remember a sun blocking hat and your sunglasses.

Sun Blocking Suggestions

Protecting your skin is key. Always grab your sun hat when planning to go out in the sun. Remember your sunglasses. Wearing appropriate clothing for prolonged sun exposure will keep you safe.

Long sleeves shirts are best made of tightly woven fabric. There are many garments to choose from, some from your own closet. Some from sun blocking clothing manufacturers.

When you are considering what shirt to wear, hold it up to a light. If you can see pinprick light through the woven threads, the light can see you. In my part of the world, we wear our denim shirts in the winter a lot. They are our jackets and sun blocking wear at the same time.

If you want to shop for specially made sun blocking clothing, there is a wide choice for looking good and staying protected. To me, reading the label to find out how to launder the garment to increase the life of the sun blocking is important. I don’t want to do something to make the shirt lose that sun blocking ability for a good while.

A folding wide brim hat, sunglasses, and a loose-fitting long sleeve shirt will be what you need to stay protected under the winter sun. Sunscreen for your face to protect from reflections, and for your hands, if you aren’t wearing gloves.

These items will give you a basic sun blocking wardrobe for winter or summer.

Which Medications Make Me Sunburn Quicker?

We take our allergy medication daily and actually forget it is even a medication!

Yes, certain medications may increase your skin’s sensitivity. This results in increasing your chances of feeling drained after a while in the sun. Some antibiotics like Bactrim or Tetracyclines can make your skin predisposed to sunburn.

And for some of you, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen which are used to treat sunburn can actually cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun. Check out this list for the ones most likely to surprise you.

  • Antibiotics, particularly tetracyclines like doxycycline and fluoroquinolones like ciprofloxacin.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
  • Older antihistamines like promethazine.
  • Griseofulvin, an antifungal medication.

For mild sun hangover symptoms, you should always catch up on your fluids. Take anti-inflammatory medications to help take away any tired and run-down feelings.

The first line of treatment is that you re-hydrate yourself, at the first sign of sunburn. To soothe your skin, you should take cool showers or baths. You can also use pure Aloe Vera gel on any sensitive spots. For me, this usually means Aloe Vera gel on my shoulders, arms, and face.

Make sure to block the future sun from your body with your sun blocking clothing. Stay in the shade or a cool room. Wintertime sunburns can be miserable to treat because trying to stay warm holds in heat your body releases. Your body does need to release the heat to heal itself.

Sunburn Often Needs Medical Intervention

So, what happens if you have taken all these precautions and your skin still turns red and angry?

Rehydration is the most important treatment for sunburn. Not many people realize how much additional fluid you must take in while you have sunburn.

When your skin is exposed to or damaged by the sun, it loses water quickly. The number one treatment for a burn patient is hydration, and, sunburns that form a blister are actually second-degree burns. When this happens, you need to be evaluated by a medical professional.

Be safe rather than sorry. Your vacation is a special time and getting some help can be the thing that saves the time for you. Usually, winter sunburn is to your face and arms. However, if you also burned on your chest and back, legs, a medical check is in order.

Make sure you don’t get too much winter sun.

Sun Poisoning

You hear that term sun poisoning. This is a referring to being out in the sun and the effects that you feel.

You feel poisoned by the sun after you’ve been out for an extended period of time. The sun will have some effects on you. It’s a feeling almost like having flu after you’ve been out in the sun too long.

You feel tired, you can feel nauseated. Some people even have vomiting afterward and are achy all over, hot, feverish. That’s really when you hear that term, sun poisoning, it’s those after-effects of having too much sun.

The sun can be good and it can elevate our mood, help with some vitamin D production in our body. We all like to get out in the sun. On a clear day, when there’s that little breeze. The sun feels so good, but too much can be harmful and we know that it has long-term effects.

Usually when we are out in the sun what we worry about is sunburn. Sunburn can happen after just 15 minutes of sun exposure. The way to protect against that is of course is sunscreen and sun blocking clothing.

There are many sun blocking clothing lines that have up to 50 UV protection. Start at top of your head where you sunburn first and protect yourself with a wide brim hat.

Then there are neck gaiters, sleeve guards. Sunblocking shirts that are loose-fitting and have long sleeves.

Is Sun Sickness Dangerous?

Where you aren’t covered, add sunscreen. You can get good coverage with sunscreen alone but must reapply often. Wearing clothing is just another layer between you and the sun, and I prefer not to have to apply sunscreen.

Too many people forget when to protect themselves in the winter.

Sun Sickness is what happens after being out in the sun for an extended period of time. You tend to get a little dehydrated and a lot of times that leads to that feeling of weakness, dizziness, and aching all over.

Staying hydrated can help. Also, remember your sun blocking clothing and sunscreen to prevent a burn.

You have a sunburn, along with the heat, as well as maybe a little swelling and redness? You will feel the inflammatory response that comes as a result of exposure to the sun and dehydration. This triggers your immune system which is trying to heal any damage to your body and your skin.

Remember, your skin is the largest organ in your body. So when your skin gets damaged, it triggers that immune system to kick in to start repairing itself.

Your blood vessels dilate and it sends all the immune mediators to start that repair process. That dilation of blood vessels leads to some swelling and redness and just feeling kind of crummy after exposure.

How Sun Sickness Feels

Do you always feel beat up by the sun? You know, when the top of your ears get sunburn? That feels awful.

Or getting sunburn in the part in my hair! It was the worst because I couldn’t brush my hair for a week without hurting.

We agree that sun sickness complaining makes one seem a bit wimpy. And yes it can be considered that with a mild case. However, now that I understand what is happening in my body I feel better equipped to help myself through the healing up. Do you?

Finding That Hat For Winter Sun Protection

Guys were a lot better about wearing hats than gals are. A hat is the first item we need to protect ourselves from the sun, winter, or summer. When we get the hat home it’s like, wait a minute!

I don’t look exactly the way I wanted it to look.

It is important when you’re going to be out in the sun to protect your head and scalp. The damage to your skin that occurs with too much sun exposure actually alters your DNA. Even though your skin can repair itself, sometimes that DNA stays damaged.

That’s what leads to skin cancer later on.

I’m seeing more hats, even here in central Texas. We have always had our caps, and worn them. Now I am seeing some nice hats that protect your face, help keep the sun off the wearer, even in the grocery store. We are getting the message!

Hats Prevent Skin Cancer?

There is really no way to know when your will start to develop skin cancers. We don’t know how many times you can get sunburn. Is it 2 or is it 20?

Nobody knows if there’s a real number or not. It’s still scary. So sunscreen helps? Yes, proven in many research projects for many years now.

It does help? Absolutely! Against skin Cancer? Yes.

The goal of sunscreen is to prevent sunburn.

Sunscreen is applied about 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and then reapplying every couple of hours. If you are getting wet or sweating a lot, apply more often.

Wearing sun blocking hats and sunscreen helps prevent sunburn.

Preventing sunburn is how you prevent skin cancer. Skin cancer is the result of damage. When the skin gets some damage, the DNA can easily get damaged as well. Although the skin will repair itself, sometimes the repair is not the smooth skin you began the day with. Your DNA stays damaged.

Sun Damage Is Cummulative!

So sun damage. That brings sun poisoning back to mind. For me, it kind of dumbs it down to really what the sun is doing to you. It really is poisoning you.

So that is why people get such leathery skin? Maybe a lot of different sunspots as they age? Wrinkles, there I said it.

Can the damage happen at any time in somebody’s life? If a young child gets sunburned often?

Yes, cumulative over your lifetime. Obviously the younger you start experiencing a sunburn? The more damaging it can be in the long term.

We really must protect our children and young adults. The most vulnerable age is the teen years to the early 20s. That’s when you kind of think, “nothing’s going to happen to me.” Remember your bulletproof years?

A nice deep tan, you thought it looked so good. That’s really one of the most vulnerable times because of the increased sun exposure. The only safe tan? A fake tan. Meaning a spray-on tan.

Safe Tan, Meaning A Spray On Tan

Surely you were not thinking tanning beds? We are smarter than that!

The light in a tanning bed is mostly UVA light and it goes deeper and does that more significant damage. Exposure to tanning beds increases the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma skin cancer by up to 75 percent!

It’s a significantly increased risk. Don’t get in tanning beds.

With skin cancer, you can, sometimes catch it early enough. Do you want to risk that 75 % increase?

How To Protect Myself From Winter Sun

When you buy sunscreen, do you know to get a broad-spectrum one?

And then also remember eye protection. You really want sunglasses that have that UV protection built into them as well. We forget about our eyes but the eye exposure to the sun over time leads to cataracts later in life.

All these things eventually catch up with you. In the early phases, it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s nice going out into the sun and feeling that bright sunshine on your face but over time, without protection, it will catch up.

What About Vitamin D From The Sun

Let’s give just a minute here to the mental health benefit of vitamin D. How the sun can help you to have a healthier body. If you’re feeling depressed, you might get outside and get some sunshine. It is not just an “old wives’ tale?”

The sun does help elevate our mood. It’s believed that the sun helps release serotonin as well. Serotonin is our feel-good hormone.

Getting out into the sun is good for you.

We know we should wear sunscreen. More than throughout the prior history of the world.

Vitamin D levels across our country. This is due to lifestyles, aging, working from home, and no commute, along with other issues. People are vitamin D deficient. One way to get vitamin D is through the sun but you can also do it through an oral supplement. Why not get your 20 minutes of sun a few days a week.

With sun exposure, just remember, it should be limited because beyond that 20 minutes, you’re running a risk of sunburn. Early morning sun is better and reduces the risk for sunburn.

How To Get Some Safe Sun

Are cloudy days sunburn days? Will I get too much sun through an overcast winter sky?

You don’t realize that you’re getting all that sun exposure because you don’t see the sun. It’s cooler outside, usually on a cloudy day during winter. Most of us just simply lose track of time.

On a cloudy day, it is hard to remember to reapply sunscreen.

Can You Undo A Sunburn?

If you’re feeling like you’ve had too much sun, staying hydrated is number one. Often the effects are related to dehydration from sun exposure. Drinking extra water, a diluted sports drink, to help replace some of the electrolytes.

Eating a banana to help replace some of those electrolytes and drinking a full glass of water is also good.

Hydration is the key. Maybe take anti-inflammatory medications as ibuprofen can help with the body aches or that inflammatory response that comes with the sunburn. The plant aloe vera has many health benefits when put the gel on your skin.

I am sure you have noticed, these suggestions for after you have had too much sun are to make you feel better and heal. There is little you can do but let the healing cycle work through.

A Bit About Sunburn

When you get a sunburn, and there is bubbling or a blister. You are looking at a serious burn.

And maybe some peeling. At that point, is it treatable? Or do you need to go see somebody?

When you have a blister with a sunburn, it’s a second-degree burn. It’s a little more serious. A typical sunburn would be considered a first-degree burn.

By the time you get to a second-degree burn, it’s a little deeper into the thickness of the skin. Don’t pop the blister. That blister is a protective covering for the skin. It’s like a protective dressing so don’t pop it. Let it just stay there. Try to protect the blister covering.

This is a more serious burn, especially if you have a large part of your body with a second-degree burn. That’s going to create a more systemic inflammatory immune response. You’ve damaged a significant portion of your skin, the largest organ in your body.

It may require medical attention at that point if you have a significant burn area. With a single blister, you can probably treat that and take care of it.

Infection Concerns

Infection can be a cause for concern. In the healing process, different parts of your skin that have sunburn can get infected.

The healing area can get infected. The area could have drainage blisters and sometimes odor. These are all part of an infection. Redness and sometimes fever.

Hydration is key after any type of sunburn. Your body is depleted. The first treatment in emergency rooms for any kind of burn is hydration. give IV fluids to help to rehydrate quickly.

Usually, the medical treatment includes lots of fluids, because the skin is the protective layer for the fluids in your body. An adult is 60 percent water. And a baby is 80 percent water.

Staying hydrated helps your body heal itself, so why not help by drinking lots of water?

Help Your Skin Heal

What your skin does is help keep that moisture, that fluid inside of your body. When you damage the ability of your body to keep the fluid in? You’re losing fluid whether you see it or not.

This is an “insensible” loss of fluid. You need that fluid for your cells to stay healthy in your body.

Should we use topical lotions? Make sure that any lotion does not contain petroleum. Your healing area needs to breathe.

The recommendation for after sun exposure, or dryness or injury to the skin, to moisturize it. There are a lot of good products that will moisturize. Remember that aloe’s a natural product that will moisturize.

Protect your skin
Sami’s Take On Too Much Winter Sun

Using caution is an important part of staying safe from the winter sun. The danger of too much sun can ruin your skiing vacation. Remembering to take care of your skin will make you enjoy your vacation more.

Being aware of why you feel like you do after being in the sun will make more sense to you after reading about what is actually going on in your system. Learning to be proactive for skin protection will prevent reaction to the overexposure to the sun.

Yes, the summer sun works the same except that you have the heat as well to deal with. If you take a choose a warm tropical vacation, use the same information to protect yourself. Enjoy that break.


This information is for helping you understand what is happening with too much winter sun. It is not a substitute for medical advice. If you get too much sun, check with your primary care doctor.

Awareness will help your make better decisions for yourself and your family.

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