Living in Florida has its benefits and its drawbacks. The fact is that sunshine is what people love about this state but the rays of the sun can be deadly. Not a week goes by that I don’t see at least one patient blistered from serious sunburn. I am constantly warning my patients about the dangers of too much sun but many still fall victim to its dangerous rays.
Regardless if you’re on a tropical vacation…fall asleep for a couple hours in the backyard …. or you just lose track of time playing outdoors with your kids, it’s easy to forget to use sunscreen. It has probably happened to you at least once in your life. That’s why it’s so important for you to know how to protect your skin from harmful rays and treat sunburn when it happens to you.
The skin is actually the largest organ of your body so when you are burning up with sunburn pain it can cause you to feel miserable all over. In some cases you may experience fever, chills, and even nausea. Knowing what you can do at home can save you from suffering many hours of discomfort.
Prevention is always the first line of defense when it comes to the sun. After all, you wouldn’t need to have an arsenal of remedies if you could guard against sunburn in the first place. Let me give you a few general guidelines to live by when it comes to protecting your skin:
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat, cover up with clothing, and wear UV-blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
• Wear a generous amount of sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher everyday and reapply every two hours.
• Try to stay in the shade when outdoors, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and do not actively seek a tan.
• Do monthly skin self-exams for any suspicious moles or spots and see your dermatologist every year for a full skin check.
Mother Nature Knows Best
Many of the remedies I recommend to my patients are natural solutions. It’s no surprise that Mother Nature sometimes holds the answers to how best to heal our bodies. Most of the treatments listed here are easy to apply and are some of my favorite suggestions for taking the sting out of the burn.
• Aloe–This gel, derived from the leaves of the aloe plant, is perhaps the best-known natural treatment for sunburns. It is so commonly used; you won’t even have to make a special trip to a natural foods store, as most drugstores stock it in gel form. It is cooling and supplies anti-bacterial properties. If you have access to an aloe plant, you can strip off the leaves’ outer layers and use the oil that comes directly from the plant.
• Milk–Have you ever tried a new dish in a Mexican or Indian restaurant that packed a lot more heat than you bargained for? Maybe the waiter suggested a glass of milk to curb the fire on your tongue. The same principle applies to sunburn. Soak a cloth in skim milk and place it on the infected area for a soothing, cooling effect.
• Yogurt–Natural yogurt with live and active cultures has a similar effect to milk, but with a creamy consistency that may make it easier to rinse off and avoid the sour smell.
• Black tea–The tannins present in black tea can cool down inflamed skin. Steep some tea bags in room temperature water and apply them to the sunburn.
• Apple cider vinegar–This is another household item that will relieve the pain caused by sunburn. Soak a cloth with the vinegar and rest the compress on burned skin. Re-soak the compress if it dries out in order to keep the area moist.
• Vitamin E–This powerful anti-oxidant can be used in ointment or oil form to help soothe and moisten the burned area.
• Vitamin C–This anti-oxidant should be taken in pill form in order to strengthen the immune system. When you get sunburned, the sun’s UV rays damage your cells, making it difficult for your body to defend itself against infection.
• Calendula–Applied as a cream or oil to the skin, this natural plant substance is soothing and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
• Baking Soda–Add half a cup to a cool bath and have a long, relaxing soak to relieve the pain of sunburn. Allow your skin to air-dry instead of rubbing with a towel, which could cause irritation.
It is also important to note that you should not put creams, ointments or oils on an open sore or blister, as these could make it more susceptible to infection. If you spike a fever along with your sunburn, you may have heat stroke and should see a doctor right away.
If your skin blisters or you feel uneasy using a natural treatment at home, it is always best to consult your physician. Every case of sunburn is unique and so is the extent of damage to the layers of skin. Don’t take the chance of permanent sun damage that you will pay for later in life. Protect your skin now and it will remain youthful and resilient in the years to come.