Sunburns from intense or excess sun exposure can cause immediate pain and long-term skin damage. Treating sunburn immediately can limit unnecessary discomfort and harm. Sunburn begins with excess sun exposure but can continue to worsen even after the sun exposure is over, so it is important to treat sunburn early to reduce inflammation and pain. Excess sun exposure can also cause sun stroke, so with any sunburn watch for additional signs of dehydration, lethargy, confusion, or heat intolerance.
When coming in from excess sun exposure take a cool to cold shower or bath to reduce skin inflammation. A cool shower can reduce the ‘burn’ happening beneath the surface of the skin that can appear minutes to hours after sun exposure.
Apply pure, organic aloe vera gel which can be used topically to reduce inflammation and limit skin damage after a shower. It can also reduce pain. Use aloe vera gel topically every few hours as needed to reduce discomfort and swelling.
Take a natural anti-inflammatory with anti-oxidant properties to avoid free radical damage of sunburn, such as turmeric, white willow bark, and vitamin C. These supplements will limit the inflammation of sunburn and protect the skin from excess long-term damage.
If sunburn causes extreme discomfort, a vinegar application can reduce skin pain. A thin washcloth soaked in a diluted mixture, half and half ratio, of apple cider or white vinegar and water and placed topically on skin for several minutes at a time can reduce pain. Repeat as needed to treat physical skin discomforts.
Calendula gel is a soothing product to reduce inflammation that can be used topically for pain and to reduce swelling. It can be used in addition to, or in place of, aloe
Beginning immediate hydration with water and electrolyte-balanced beverages such as coconut water can soothe skin inflammation and prevent dehydration associated with sunburn. It is very important to hydrate immediately and continue for several days after to keep skin moist.
It is important to treat even mild sunburns with inflammation mediating agents and to also watch for other signs such as confusion, agitation, dizziness, and lethargy as signs of dehydration. Be sure to seek medical attention if blistering occurs or any additional symptoms associated with possible sunstroke or dehydration continue.
Dr. Sinsheimer is a naturopathic doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.