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


I got a bad sunburn on my shins about a week ago. It seemed like it was healing, but today I noticed blisters on my legs. They're clearish white on the top, and the fluid inside is clear. My whole shins are giant clear blisters (or hundreds of tiny blisters). I tried putting aloe gel on it. 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 develop hours after a sunburn or take longer to appear.

If you have a fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, severe blistering or pain, call your doctor's office or a health clinic.

If you have blisters with no other problems, here's how to care for them:

  • Don't pop or pick them. Blisters protect the skin underneath as they heal. If they get peeled off, the skin can get infected.
  • Cool the burn. Use cold compresses off and on or take a quick shower or bath with cool water.
  • If the burn is painful, take ibuprofen. Follow the package instructions for dosing.
  • 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.
  • Protect your skin from sun while it's healing from the burn. Your skin will be tender, and more sun will only 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. Don't use tanning beds.
  • Drink extra water to help prevent dehydration.

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 30 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 too.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: November 2019