Home Icon

Do I Need to See a Doctor if I Get a Sunburn on My Feet?

Jul 01, 2023
Nothing says summer like day-long beach trips, poolside picnics, and sunburned feet. Wait – sunburned feet? Yes, and if you’ve ever experienced a sunburn on the tops of your feet and toes, you know how painful it can get. Should you see the doctor?

Fortunately, ongoing warnings about the risks associated with sunburns mean that most of us remember the sunscreen before venturing into the Texas sunshine.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget your feet and toes when slathering on the protection. And because socks, shoes, or boots often cover the tender skin on top of your feet, it tends to crisp quickly when exposed to the sun’s rays.

Check these guidelines from our team at Metroplex Foot & Ankle in Dallas, Garland, and Richardson, Texas, about the dangers of moderate to severe sunburn — and when to see the doctor for sunburned feet.

Assess the severity of your sunburn

Doctors generally grade sunburns as mild, moderate, or severe, and recommend treatment based on the skin’s appearance and the pain you’re experiencing. Understanding the severity of the burn can help guide your choices about home care versus a podiatrist’s attention.

For instance, if your sunburned feet exhibit mild redness and discomfort without blisters or severe pain, you can typically manage the condition at home. However, taking appropriate self-care measures to facilitate healing and prevent further skin damage is still essential.

On the other hand, if your sunburned feet display severe redness, extensive blistering, or significant pain, we suggest you schedule a visit at Metroplex Foot & Ankle. These symptoms indicate a more serious burn that requires professional evaluation and treatment to avoid potential complications.

Importantly, it can take several hours for skin inflammation, blisters, and other symptoms of sunburn to manifest fully. In such cases, you may notice that your feet feel uncomfortably warm or painful before redness, blistering, and other symptoms appear.

We also recommend a visit if you have a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes, or if you’re taking medications that may complicate sunburn healing.

Many medications can increase sun sensitivity, including diuretics, certain diabetes drugs, antibiotics, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen. Check the warning labels included with the medications you take to evaluate your risks.

What health complications are related to sunburned feet?

While most sunburns heal on their own within a week or two, severe sunburns can lead to complications that may include:


Blisters from sunburned feet can break and expose the underlying skin, creating a pathway for bacteria to enter. If you notice signs of infection, such as increasing pain, swelling, redness, or discharge, it's crucial to consult a health care professional right away.

Increased risk of skin cancer

Sunburns are the leading cause of the three most common skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Further, your skin cancer risk doubles with five or more sunburns.

Sun poisoning

In some cases, severe sunburn can result in a condition known as sun poisoning. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, fever, and chills. If you experience any of these symptoms, immediate medical attention is essential.

Treating your sunburned feet

If your sunburned feet are mild and don't require medical attention, here are some self-care tips to help soothe the discomfort and promote healing:

  • Get out of the sun and avoid further sun exposure to prevent worsening the burn
  • Apply cool, damp cloths or take cool showers to ease pain and inflammation
  • Avoid using ice on the burn since this can worsen skin damage
  • Use a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated
  • Try over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen to alleviate pain and inflammation
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration caused by the sunburn
  • Wear open-toed shoes or sandals to avoid friction and allow air circulation
  • Refrain from popping blisters to avoid increased infection risk

Otherwise, our specialty services at Metroplex Foot & Ankle include care for sunburned feet. Your treatment may consist of prescription-strength ointments and creams to reduce pain and inflammation, wound care for blisters, and antibiotics for infection.

If your sunburned feet are not healing as expected or your burn is moderate to severe, schedule a visit by calling your nearest Metroplex Foot & Ankle office today, or requesting an appointment online any time.