SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Signs and symptoms of sunburn include:
- Pinkness or redness
- Skin that feels warm or hot to the touch
- Pain or tenderness
- Small fluid-filled blisters, which may break
- Headache, fever and fatigue if sunburn covers a large area
Any part of your body, including your earlobes, scalp and lips, can burn. Your eyes, which are extremely sensitive to the sun's ultraviolet 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 and severity of sunburn.
Within a few days, your body starts to heal itself by "peeling" the top layer of damaged skin. After peeling, your skin may temporarily have an irregular color and pattern. Depending on the severity, it may take several days or longer for the sunburn 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 a few days
Also, seek medical care if you notice signs or symptoms of an infection. These include:
- Increasing pain and tenderness
- Increasing swelling
- Yellow drainage (pus) from an open blister
- Red streaks, leading away from the open blister, which may extend in a line upward along your arm or leg
- Sun and your skin. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_sun.html. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Facts about sunscreen. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media/background/factsheets/fact_sunscreen.htm. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Wolf K, et al. Photosensitivity, photo-induced disorders and disorders by ionizing radiation. In: 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 March 13, 2011.
- Brice S, et al. Sunburn. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Habif TP. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Skin cancer prevention and early detection. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/SunandUVExposure/SkinCancerPreventionandEarlyDetection/skin-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-what-to-look-for. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- Balk SJ. Ultraviolet radiation: A hazard to children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;127:e791.
- Get set for winter illness season. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm092805.htm. Accessed March 14, 2011.
- Anderson CF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 15, 2011.
- 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 Apr. 8, 2011.