I Got Blisters From a Sunburn. What Should I Do?

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I Got Blisters From a Sunburn. What Should I Do?

I got a pretty bad sunburn on my shins about a week ago. It seemed like it was healing just fine, but today I noticed blisters on my legs. They're clearish white on the top, and the fluid inside is clear (like water). Basically, my whole shins are giant clear blisters (or hundreds of tiny blisters). I tried putting aloe gel on it. It's really freaking me out. What should I do?
- Fiona*

Blisters like the ones you have are a sign that a sunburn is serious. The blisters don't always show up right away. They may take a few days or longer to develop.

If you have a fever, chills, nausea, or you start throwing up along with the blisters, call your doctor's office or a health clinic. If you have blisters with no other problems, take these steps to care for them:

  • Don't pop or pick them. Blisters protect the skin underneath as it heals. If they get peeled off, the skin can get infected.
  • It's OK to use a moisturizer or aloe gel on the blisters. Avoid petroleum jelly or other heavy products, though, because they prevent heat or sweat from escaping. If you want, you can put a gauze bandage over blisters until they heal.
  • Protect your skin from sun while it's healing from the burn. Your skin will be tender, and more sun will just make things worse. If you need to go out in the sun, wear long, loose skirts or pants to cover the blisters until they're gone. Wear sunscreen after the blisters have healed.
  • If the burn is painful, take over-the-counter ibuprofen and use cool compresses for relief.

Sunburns get better on their own, but they still affect your health. Each time you get a blistering sunburn, it damages skin cells and increases your chance of developing skin cancer. That's especially true if you get sunburns as a kid or teen. So promise yourself you'll be sun smart from now on. (And, if your sunburn is serious, see a doctor or nurse.)

Whenever you're outdoors, wear a "broad-spectrum" sunscreen (meaning it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply it often if you're on the beach, at the pool, or anywhere you might swim or sweat it off.

Want a tan? You can fake it with a sunless self-tanner, but self-tanners on their own don't protect you from UVA rays. So wear sunscreen as well.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: July 2011

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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