When to Call a Doctor

You should seek medical attention for sunburn if you're experiencing the following:

  • a high fever, nausea or chills
  • extreme pain or increasing pain and tenderness
  • confusion
  • sunburn that doesn't seem to get better after a few days of home treatment

Prevent Peeling From a Sunburn

Unfortunately, you can't prevent peeling, which is actually a good thing because peeling is the body's way to get rid of skin damaged by sunburn. When peeling begins, keep moisturizing your skin. You can also apply an antiseptic cream to ward off the risk of infection.

Blistering signals second-degree sunburn. If blistering isn't extensive and appears to be healing without complications, it can be treated with home and over-the-counter remedies. Don't be tempted to break sunburn blisters -- even with a sterilized needle. Blisters shouldn't deliberately be broken because the serum inside the blister helps the healing process. Breaking a blister can make it more painful, slow healing and bring an increased risk of infection.

Some of your blisters will likely break on their own. When they do, make sure you wash your hands before you touch them to avoid introducing bacteria to the area. Don't peel or remove the flap of skin from a broken blister - and, if possible, keep the skin underneath covered with the flap of skin.

If blisters (or other sunburned areas) hurt when clothing touches them, you can loosely bandage the area with a layer of gauze. Be careful that the tape doesn't stick to the blisters or to other sunburned areas, and that it isn't wrapped too tightly and cuts off circulation. Wear only lightweight clothing and experiment with different fabrics to see what's the most comfortable.

If you experience extensive blistering, seek medical attention. Signs that blisters from sunburn aren't healing properly include pus (yellow drainage) from a blister that has opened, and red streaks leading away from an opened blister.

Now that you've read and learned about how to treat peeling and blisters, move on to the next page for other helpful sunburn strategies.