This summer has been a scorching one so far. The temps have soared to record breaking highs for most of the country. Along with this summertime sunshine comes the risk of sunburn. Despite your best efforts to protect yourself from getting burned, perhaps you missed some spots with the sunscreen or failed to reapply every couple of hours. You didn't notice that you were getting burned because sunburn can take some time to show the redness of inflammation. The next day you find that your skin is red, hot to the touch, and your skin is puffy and swollen. And then there is the pain which makes getting into the shower feel rocks pelting your skin, and even putting on clothes hurts. You feel tired, achy, and sore. This is when you vow never to get sunburned again. But in the meantime, how can you get rid of the pain and subsequent itching?
The first thing you need to do is determine how bad your sunburn is. If your skin is blistering then you have a pretty bad burn. In this case do not pop the blisters as this can increase the risk of infection. If a large portion of your body is blistering you probably should call your doctor for guidance. Other symptoms which require medical attention include feeling faint or dizzy, nausea, fever, chills, and/or signs of dehydration such as extreme thirst but little to no urine output.
If you have a sunburn which does not require medical attention, there are some things at home you can use to alleviate the pain. Some of these remedies are covered in our sunburn first aid guide.
- Aloe vera gel is highly recommended in the literature as a topical aid in soothing the pain of a sunburn. This is the remedy I most often use for myself and family if anyone has a sunburn. You can buy aloe vera gel over the counter or you can make your own concoction. Here is one on-line recipe for making your own aloe vera gel.
- An over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help to reduce your pain. One warning which comes from our sunburn first aid guide is: DO NOT give aspirin to children.
- A cool bath can relieve some of the pain and itching of sunburn. A bath may be more soothing than a shower as the spray of a shower can hurt your sensitive skin. Remember to pat your skin dry and don't rub.
- Some people use milk as a sunburn treatment. One mixture calls for one cup skim milk with 4 cups water and add a few ice cubes. Apply these milk compresses to areas of sunburn for 15 to twenty minutes and repeat as necessary.
- Another dairy product cited frequently in the literature as a home remedy for sunburn is yogurt. Yogurt is said to be cooling and soothing to sunburned skin. Apply to burned areas and rinse off with cool water. Pat your skin dry.
- Other people use aspirin as a way to relieve the pain of sunburn, not taken orally, but used topically. Mash two aspirin in water to make a paste to spread on the affected areas of skin. Aspirin is said to be a powerful anti-inflammatory which can decrease the redness and pain of your sunburn.
- Another home remedy repeated frequently on skin care forums is the use of tea bags. The tannic acid from tea is soothing for sunburns and has anti-inflammatory properties which shrink blood vessels to calm the skin. If your eyelids are burned you can apply tea bags soaked in cool water to help reduce swelling and pain. You can also make a solution of tea using 6 or more teabags and refrigerate until cold. Make a cool compress of a washcloth dipped in the tea mixture and apply to the affected areas. Some people also take a cool bath with several tea bags in their bath water.
- Oatmeal is another kitchen staple which can also be used as a sunburn remedy. Fill your bathtub with cool water and add a cup of oatmeal. Some people buy Aveeno, an oatmeal powder you can purchase at most drugstores.
- There are a lot of people who swear by using vinegar to soothe a sunburn. Some people say you can use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. For a bath, mix one or two cups of vinegar into your cool bath water. Others make a vinegar compress by soaking a small towel in a bowl of vinegar and then applying to the skin.
- Cool vegetable slices applied to the sunburned areas may also bring some relief. Slices of raw cucumber or potatoes work for some people to alleviate the pain of sunburn.
Now that you have experienced sunburn, the ideal is to prevent it from happening again. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions from health writer, Sue Chung, in her post, "How to Avoid Sunburn This Summer."
Now it is your turn. Do you have any home remedies for sunburn that you would like to share? Let us know. You know we always love to hear from you
Discovery Health: 29 Home Remedies for Sunburn
National Institutes of Health Medline Plus: Sunburn
Prevention Magazine, Eds. (2009). The doctor's book of home remedies. New York, NY: Rodale Inc.