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When to See a Doctor About Your Sunburn

woman with sunburned shoulder

Sunburns are an unfortunate side effect of soaking up the sun. As one of the most common aches you’ll experience during the summer, you probably don’t think much about your newfound glow. But there are some sunburns that are different from others and may require medical attention to keep your seemingly innocent irritation from becoming an emergency.

When your lobster red skin is giving you the summertime blues, NMC Health can give you the answers and relief you need to get back out there this summer. Our expert providers at our Family Medicine clinics in Wichita, Park City, Valley Center, and Hesston are experienced in getting to the source of your concern, answering your questions, and getting you the relief you need.

Appointments at family medicine clinics can take a little longer, so it’s recommended that you visit an Immediate Care clinic if you need to be seen fast. NMC Health | Immediate Care in Newton is open 7 days a week to help you receive care any day of the week. Walk-ins are welcome and you can even check-in online to see wait times and get in line before you come in. We have the tools and knowledge to help patients 6 months and older and with a wide range of health needs, so you know you’re in the best hands when you are in our care.

For the most extreme cases, a trip to the Emergency Room may be necessary to help you recover from your severe health need. The Emergency Department at NMC Health Medical Center is ready to serve Newton and the surrounding communities to get you the emergency care you need and get you back on your feet.

Now that you know where to go when your fun in the sun makes you want to hide inside, how do you know what level of care you need and when should you seek medical attention for your sunburn?

Here’s when you should see a doctor or go to the emergency room for your summertime sunburn.

What Is a Sunburn and Why Can They Be a Problem?

Sunburns are an incredibly common condition that afflict up to 1 in 3 Americans each year, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services¹. Sunburns are a clear sign of overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays, often from spending too much time in the sun without the proper precautions take to protect your skin.

I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of sunburns, and you may not think much about this common malady, but sunburns can become a major health concern if they are allowed to become too severe or you receive too many of them throughout your lifetime.

When to See a Family Medicine or Immediate Care Clinic About Your Sunburn

Sunburns that may require a family medicine doctor or immediate care clinic:

  • cause extreme discomfort
  • develop in blisters and sores
  • cover a large portion of your body
  • and/or don’t respond to at-home treatments


A severe sunburn may also develop a skin infection indicated by swelling, pus or red streaks leading from the blister. If you experience a sunburn that fits any of these descriptions, it is important to see a doctor soon to help your burn heal and get you back to enjoying your summer, with a hat and some sunscreen this time!

Repeat sunburns, even ones that you don’t seek treatment for, can have longer term consequences than one severe sunburn. The effects of receiving many sunburns over time, including the risk of skin cancer, can be disastrous for your help. Skin cancer can show in several ways, including irregularly shaped or colored moles, changing or growing skin spots, or itchy, bleeding, or patchy spots. Skin cancer does not only grow in areas that receive direct sunlight, so it’s important to check your whole body for the signs above every month².

If you notice a suspicious spot, see a doctor so they can determine the best course of action, including referring you to a dermatologist or skin specialist.

When to Visit an Emergency Room for Your Sunburn

In the most severe sunburn cases, a trip to the ER may be needed to stabilize the patient. When your sunburn is accompanied by a high fever, headache, severe pain, dehydration, confusion, nausea or chills, you need to get out of the sun before your condition worsens and you need to go the hospital. Sunburns share these symptoms with other, more life-threatening conditions like heat stroke and acute dehydration, so it is important to follow these instructions if you notice any of the above symptoms:

  1. Stop what you are doing
  2. Go to a cool place, preferably indoors
  3. Drink cool water or sports drink
  4. Wait for your body to sufficiently cool down and rehydrate before returning to outdoor activities


If you become confused or distressed, lose consciousness, are unable to drink or urinate, or your condition does not improve within an hour, get emergency medical attention immediately³.

Get Answers. Get Relief. Get Back Out There!

Whether you sizzled in the sun for too long or your tanning bed session went way too far, NMC Health Family Medicine, Immediate Care, and the Emergency Department at NMC Health Medical Center have you covered no matter your concern or level of care needed.

If you or someone you know are having a medical emergency, call 911. You can get directions and learn more about the Emergency Department at NMC Health | Medical Center here.

Need to be seen fast, but your sunburn doesn’t fit the bill for a trip to the ER? Get relief without the wait at NMC Health | Immediate Care in Newton! Click the button below to view current wait times and get in line so you can get seen by a medical provider faster and easier than ever.

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