Sunburn signs and symptoms include:
- Pinkness or redness
- Skin that feels warm or hot to the touch
- Pain, tenderness or itching
- Small fluid-filled blisters, which may break
- Headache, fever, chills and fatigue if the sunburn is severe
Any exposed part of your body — including your earlobes, scalp and lips — can burn. Even covered areas can burn if, for example, your clothing has a loose weave that allows ultraviolet (UV) light through. Your eyes, which are extremely sensitive to the sun's UV light, also can burn. Sunburned eyes may feel painful or gritty.
Signs and symptoms of sunburn usually appear within a few hours after sun exposure. But it may take a day or longer to know the full extent of your sunburn.
Within a few days, your body may start to heal itself by "peeling" the top layer of damaged skin. After peeling, your skin may temporarily have an irregular color and pattern. A bad sunburn may take several days or longer to heal.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if the sunburn:
- Is blistering and covers a large portion of your body
- Is accompanied by a high fever, extreme pain, headache, confusion, nausea or chills
- Doesn't respond to at-home care within two days
Also seek medical care if you notice signs or symptoms of an infection. These include:
May. 01, 2014
- Increasing pain and tenderness
- Increasing swelling
- Yellow drainage (pus) from an open blister
- Red streaks leading away from the open blister
- Young AR, et al. Sunburn. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Baron ED. Selection of sunscreen and sun-protective measures. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Chien AL, et al. Photoaging. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Geller AC, et al. Primary prevention of melanoma. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Auerbach PS. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 5, 2013.
- Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 25, 2013.
- The Risks of Tanning. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/radiation-emittingproducts/radiationemittingproductsandprocedures/tanning/ucm116432.htm. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Benzocaine topical products: Sprays, gels and liquids: Risk of methemoglobinemia. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm250264.htm. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. Sunburn (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Reed KB, et al. Increasing incidence of melanoma among young adults: An epidemiological study in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012;87:328.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=56050969. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Dec. 4, 2013.
- Watson M, et al. Preventing skin cancer through reduction of indoor tanning: Current evidence. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2013;44:682.
- Quatrano NA, et al. Current principles of sunscreen use in children. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2013;25:122.
- Reinau D, et al. Outdoor workers' sun-related knowledge, attitudes and protective behaviours: A systematic review of cross-sectional and interventional studies. British Journal of Dermatology. 2013;168:928.
- Diaz JH, et al. Sun exposure behavior and protection: Recommendations for travelers. Journal of Travel Medicine. 2013;20:108.
- FDA sheds light on sunscreens. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm258416.htm. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Sunscreens. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens#.UbdQaJzm9lP. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=45. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- The cutaneous manifestations of metastatic malignant melanoma. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012;51:243.
- Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders, Elsevier; 2013. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 11, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.