Sunburn is a burn to the skin from exposure to the UVA and UVB rays of natural or artificial sunlight. The rays can damage your skin causing premature aging as well as skin cancer. Skin types and amount of sun exposure will play a part in the severity of the sunburn. You may not realize that you are getting burned as pain from sunburn may take 6 hours to develop. Sunburn may progress for 24-36 hours. Peeling of the skin may begin 3-8 days after exposure. Minor sunburns will usually heal themselves after several days. Severe burns could lead to sun poisoning and require medical intervention.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Blisters are possible on more severe burns
  • Peeling of skin during healing process
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea


  • Cool shower or compress
  • Acetaminophen as directed for pain relief
  • Oral antihistamines will help relieve the sting and itching
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Increase liquids to improve hydration
  • Avoid re-exposure of burned areas to sunlight until completely healed

If you develop reduced urination, dizziness, fatigue, severe pain, blisters or fever of 102 or greater, seek medical help immediately.


  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen or sunblock with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15. Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure if possible. Reapply at least every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating or submerged in water. Be aware that snow, sand and water can reflect the sun’s rays increasing chance of sunburn and sunscreen should even be worn on cloudy days.
  • Limit sun exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Wear hats, sunglasses and cover exposed skin with pants and long sleeves
  • Be aware of warnings on medications that you may be taking that could increase sensitivity to sun exposure.


CDC- Sun Burn