Sunburn blues: Relief, remedies and when to rush to the doctor

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter

You can't be too careful in the sun. Parents and kids need to be aware of the risks associated with spending hours outside under the sun's broiling rays. If you end up with a burn even after taking precautions like slathering on the sunscreen and sitting under an umbrella on the beach, Dr. Susan C. Taylor, a Philadelphia dermatologist, has advice.

Watch video: Tips to guard against sunburn, heat stroke

Go to the doctor if:

  • Blistering covers a large part of the body
  • The burn is accompanied by a high fever, extreme pain , headache, confusion, nausea or chills
  • It doesn’t respond to treatment within two days
  • The burned skin shows signs of infection such as increasing pain, tenderness, swelling, yellow drainage

If your burn isn’t bad enough to send you to the doctor, Taylor has some tips to help you feel better:

  • Protect your skin from further sun exposure
  • If blisters form, don’t break them
  • If blisters break on their own, gently cleanse the area with mild soap and water and apply an antibacterial cream
  • Drink extra fluids
  • Apply a cool compress or wet towel on the sunburned area for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day and/or take frequent cool baths or showers
  • Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or hydrocortisone cream to soothe burned skin
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium
  • Avoid products such as benzocaine, which may irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction

Not all sunscreens are created equal. A recent study from Consumer Reports found not every sunblock that promises a high SPF delivers the full protection. 

Of the 20 tested Consumer Reports says these provide "good to excellent" coverage: 

  • Banana Boat
  • BullFrog Water Armor Sport InstaCool SPF 50 — provides the full SPF promised on the label
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50 — provides the full SPF promised on the label
  • Equate (Walmart)
  • Neutrogena
  • Up & Up (Target) 
  • Well (Walgreens) 

And check out this list of 17 sunscreens that won't leave you sticky, streaky or greasy

While most parents and kids recognize that sunburns can be dangerous, many don’t realize that heat, all by itself, can be a hazard. Heatstroke occurs when the core body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher due to prolonged exposure to high heat and humidity or exercising or working in hot weather.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature
  • A lack of sweating even though the temperature is hot
  • Muscle cramps and weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Throbbing headache
  • Confusion, seizures, hallucinations or difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying
  • Unconsciousness or coma

If someone you know has these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical help and get the person to the nearest emergency room.

If you need an ambulance, while you wait you should:

  • Move the person to a shaded location and remove excess clothing
  • Try to cool the person off by placing ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck armpits and groin
  • Mist the person with water while a fan is blowing on him or her