sunburn when to see your doctor

Without the right protection, the sun can do a number on your skin. Itchy, sore, and hot-to-the-touch, sunburn is a dangerous part of the summer season.

Occasionally, severe sunburns require medical attention. Learn when it’s time to see a doctor about your sunburn.

Caring for a Minor Sunburn

Most of us are familiar with typical sunburn. It might include reddened and painful skin that lasts for a few days. Severe burns may blister and peel over the course of a week or so.

You can usually manage sunburns at home with over-the-counter pain relievers, cool compresses, baths, and soothing skin ointment such as aloe vera.

Visit UPMC CareFinder. There, you can find UPMC Urgent Care centers and Emergency Departments, as well as Walk-in Primary Care and Children’s Express Care. You can even start an online visit with UPMC AnywhereCare.

You may also experience a headache from your sunburn, which is often the result of dehydration. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help relieve your headache. You should also drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids.

Do not pop or pick at your sunburn blisters. If your blisters do break or become irritated, clean them with water (no soap, iodine, or alcohol). A loose bandage and some petroleum jelly can help keep the site moist and speed up healing.

How to Know When a Sunburn Could Be Serious

Risk Factors for Severe Sunburn

  • Children younger than 6, particularly infants, and adults older than 60 are very sensitive to the sun’s rays.
  • Some medications can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your medications.
  • High altitudes and reflective surfaces (such as ice, sand, and water) can make you more susceptible to sunburn.

Learn more about how you can prevent sunburns with our guide.

So, how do you know if your sunburn may be serious enough to warrant medical attention? If your sunburn is accompanied by any of these symptoms, seek medical care:

  • Fever
  • Vision problems
  • Severe pain
  • Blisters that have become infected

Learn more about the differences between sunburn and sun poisoning.

Looking for care now? Try UPMC CareFinder to find out what’s available.