Sunlight can help our mental outlook and help us feel healthier. For people who have arthritis, the sun’s warmth can help relieve some of their physical pain. Many people also think that a suntan makes a person look young and healthy. But sunlight can be harmful to the skin, causing immediate problems as well as problems that may develop years later.
A sunburn is skin damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Most sunburns cause mild pain and redness but affect only the outer layer of skin (first-degree burn. The red skin might hurt when you touch it. These sunburns are mild and can usually be treated at home. (Skin that is red and painful and that swells up and blisters may mean that deep skin layers and nerve endings have been damaged second-degree burn. This type of sunburn is usually more painful and takes longer to heal.)
Luckily, home treatment measures may provide some relief from a mild sunburn. If you are suffering, here are some cool tips:
- Use cool cloths on sunburned areas.
- Take frequent cool showers or baths.
- Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera to sunburned areas.
Topical steroids (such as 1% hydrocortisone cream) may also help with sunburn pain and swelling, but should not be used on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
There is no evidence-based research to support the safety and effectiveness of the following home treatment measures, but they may help relieve your burn symptoms:
- Add oatmeal [0.5 cup (118 mL)] or baking soda to a cool water bath.
- Use a moisturizer or light powder to smooth areas where skin rubs against skin to prevent chafing.
- Use calamine lotion for itching.
- Cut a raw potato and spread the juice on the burned skin.
- Use chamomile diluted in warm water or brewed into a tea to sponge on the burned skin.
- Add 2 to 3 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to smooth over the burned skin.
When touching your burn avoid breaking open any blisters, and watch for any signs of a skin infection. A sunburn can cause a mild fever and a headache. If this happens you should lie down in a cool, quiet room and rest. Headaches may be caused by dehydration, so drinking fluids may help.
There is little you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn—it is part of the healing process- however, lotion may help relieve the itching.
If you’re getting sunburned often you should take preventative measures to protect your skin from the sun and limit your exposure to strong rays. Always wear sunscreen and, if you need to, clothing that covers your skin. Long-term problems from sun exposure and repeated sunburns include: an increased risk of skin cancer, an increased number of cold sores, cataracts, from not protecting your eyes from direct or indirect sunlight over many years, and skin changes, such as premature wrinkling or brown spots.