Signs and symptoms of sunburn usually appear within a few hours of exposure, bringing pain, redness, swelling and, in some cases, blistering. Because a sunburn may affect much of your skin, you may also experience a headache, a fever and nausea.
If you have a sunburn
- Take a cool bath or shower, which may be soothing. Or apply a clean towel dampened with cool tap water.
- Apply moisturizer, aloe vera lotion or gel, or low-dose hydrocortisone cream, which may provide relief in some cases.
- Don't break small blisters (no bigger than your little fingernail). If blisters break, gently clean the area with mild soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a nonstick gauze bandage.
- If needed, take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
See your doctor if you develop large blisters. Large blisters are best removed, as they rarely will remain intact on their own. Also seek medical help if you experience immediate complications, such as extreme pain, headache, confusion, nausea or chills.
Feb. 06, 2015
- Sunscreens. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens#.UbdQaJzm9lP. Accessed Nov. 5, 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. Sunburn (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Young AR, et al. Sunburn. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 5, 2014.
- Murphy F, et al. Treatment for burn blisters: Debride or leave intact? Emergency Nurse. 2014;22:24.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec 16, 2014.