Few summer ailments are as common as sunburns.
Prevention is key, of course, and you can read my previous posts on using sunscreens and how to save money on them.
But if you or your kids get a sunburn, here are some simple steps you can take to stop the burning and promote healing.
You don’t need to buy a bunch of special products. I do keep an inexpensive bottle of aloe vera gel in my medicine cabinet as one of my basic first aid supplies.
Tips to treat sunburns
- Cool the skin. Whether a sunburn is mild (pink and stinging) or severe (red, blistered and painful), you need to stop the burning. Skin retains heat. Get out of the sun and cool the body part with cool, running water. Stand in a shower or use a hose if the burn covers a large area. Run the water for about 15 minutes.
- Apply cool compresses. Wet a cloth with cool water and apply cool compresses to the affected body part. Re-wet the cloth every few minutes. Use these several times a day, for 15 minutes at a time, as long as it provides some relief. Use an ice pack, too, if that helps, but don’t put it directly on the skin. Wrap it in a cloth.
- Take a cool bath. Fill the tub with tepid water and add a cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda, or a few drops of lavender essential oil. Whatever you have on hand and whatever smells best to you! Soak for 15 minutes.
- Take pain relievers. Take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), whichever you prefer, as directed. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and may work better, but does cause more stomach upset than acetaminophen.
- Stay hydrated. Drink a variety of fluids (caffeine and alcohol don’t count) throughout the next few days to counteract any dehydration.
- Moisturize. Apply a good moisturizer, or an aloe vera cream or gel, to relieve pain and speed up healing.
- Rest. And stay out of the sun. Even after it starts healing, recently burned skin is much more vulnerable to sunburn.
What NOT to do for sunburns
- Don’t pop blisters. Breaking blisters will increase the risk of infection.
- Don’t use soap. Avoid washing the affected area with soap until it’s well healed. Soap dries the skin and will increase the discomfort.
- Don’t use topical anesthetics. These topical medications, like Solarcaine, might provide temporary relief, but the anesthetic—lidocaine or benzocaine—often causes irritation or allergic reactions that will only increase the pain and redness. Ouch!
Select an aloe vera gel without adding color or fragrance, which can further irritate your skin!