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Definition Return to top
Sunscreen is a cream or lotion used to protect the skin from the sun's rays. Sunscreen poisoning occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally swallows sunscreen.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Poisonous Ingredient Return to top
Older sunscreens used para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) to protect skin from the sun's rays. However, many of today's suntan lotions are PABA-free. Sunscreens may contain any of the following ingredients:
Note: This list may not include all ingredients.
Where Found Return to top
Note: This list may not include all products containing sunscreen.
Symptoms Return to top
Sunscreens are generally considered nonpoisonous (nontoxic). Most symptoms are caused by mild allergic reactions and skin and eye irritation.
Home Care Return to top
Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by Poison Control or a health care professional.
Before Calling Emergency Return to top
Determine the following information:
Poison Control Return to top
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room Return to top
The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Swallowing sunscreen usually just causes mild stomach upset and vomiting.
Some suntan lotions contain a type of alcohol called ethanol. Children who swallow a large amount of such products may become drunk (intoxicated).
Swallowing a large amount of sunscreen made from salicylates could cause a condition similar to aspirin overdose.Update Date: 2/9/2009 Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Stephen C. Acosta, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (2/27/2008).