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Most of the time, sunburns are first-degree burns of the outer layer
of skin. The first sign of a sunburn is the skin turning red. The red skin can
hurt when touched. These sunburns are mild and can be treated at home.
Skin that is red and painful and that swells up and blisters
indicates a more severe sunburn and might be a second-degree burn. Most of
these sunburns can also be treated at home but can be more serious if other
problems are present.
Usually, sunburn symptoms continue to get worse in the first 24 to 36
hours after the sunburn. Sunburns start to go away over 3 to 5 days. Severe
sunburns can be serious in babies, small children, and older adults because of
their sensitive skin and their high risk for other problems.
The term sun poisoning means a sunburn is severe enough to cause a
whole-body reaction, which might include a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and
September 1, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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