Sunday, August 8, 2010

{Dog Days of Summer} Sunburn care

Today kicks off the Dog Days of Summer, a week of posts revolving around those achingly long, hot, and humid days of summer. I'm not complaining (it's nice to have summer for at least 3 months out of the year), but us city "sconnies" sometimes aren't used to it (we're more used to 30 degree weather). At least for me, I forget how strong that darn sun is, and then I get totally burnt. So here are the basics for preventing sunburn and caring for sunburns at home. I'm switching the gears and going into my nursing mode.


Look for the ingredient zinc oxide, it protects against a broad spectrum of UVA and UVB rays without being absorbed into the skin (those with sensitive skin will appreciate that). Go to UCSF dermatology website for a nice little brief on SPF numbers. I love a good tan, but really, any tan is actually skin damage. To minimize the skin damage or depth of the damage, apply sunscreen often and liberally (shotglass amount), but opt for the SPF 30 and try to limit yourself to small, but multiple intervals in the sun. After tanning/burning/being outside, you can minimize an emerging burn by taking an NSAID (tylenol, ibuprofen, etc). Studies show that it helps stop the ensuing swelling and sunburn pain. Fortunately, big floppy hats are "in" this year. I always have a scarf on hand to block the sun if I start getting too pink. If I'm at the beach, I put my sandals upside down or under a towel while I'm hanging so I don't burn my feet when I get up and put them on. (image: Fit Sugar)



Burns happen. Don't I know it. When we were in Italy, I completely burned my entire back. There's no quick fix for sunburn care but somethings do really help. These are the 3 keys goals with sunburn care. (image: Martha Stewart)

- The tannins in tea has an analgesic effect when applied topically. As an astringent, it constricts tissue to stop swelling. Pour cool brewed black tea onto the affected area or draw a bath using the tea, lavender, and mint.
- Taking an NSAID will also decrease the swelling after a burn has set in. The swelling and stretching of the skin is ultimately what is causing all that pain. Benadryl will help with the itching that comes when skin is regrowing.
- Cool it: Remember, ice may feel good, but your damaged skin can't always tell you if it's too cold. Don't add frostbite to your list of problems.

- Aloe vera: it's rich in hydration and anti-oxidants. I like using the actual plant because then I know what I'm getting. You can buy it but it's not regulated by the FDA. I cut the aloe length-wise and scoop out the gooey green gel. I then apply it like a salve. It's cooling at first and seems to cut a little bit of the pain. I grow my aloe in bright, bright sun and keep the soil dry to the touch.
- Drink, Drink, Drink: but not alcohol, caffeine, or sugary drinks. These are diuretics and will not get you any further to hydrating yourself.
- Milk it: Soak clean papertowels (lighter and smoother = less pain) in milk and cool water mixture. Reapply several applications. The proteins in milk are very soothing on burns, the coolness will help aleviate the pain.

- Keep it clean: Burned skin no longer its protective properties so it's vulnerable to infection. Opening any blisters or "heat rash bumps will also leave your skin open to possible infection. Lavender, aloe, and coconut have antiseptic qualities that will help keep the area clean.
- Let it "breathe": Most first-aid ointments (neosporin, desitin, etc) are thick because of petroleum jelly or barrier agents. After an initial burn, a barrier will trap the heat inside the skin, often making the burn deeper and more damaging. The heat needs to escape at least for 24 hrs. When the redness and swelling has subsided, it is OK to apply a barrier cream.
- Feed your skin: Skin needs water to regrow, so increase your water intake. Watermelon and cucumbers are packed with water and are good substitutes for drinking straight-up water. L-Cysteine is an amino acid that your body uses to produce keratin, or skin. A supplement or an increase in protein-rich food will ensure that you have plenty in your system for when your body goes into healing mode.


- Rubbing alcohol baths
- Petroleum jelly
- Ice
- Ignoring heatstroke: the signs and symptoms of heatstroke can be very vague, but it's easier to get hyperthermia than hypothermia. Bottom line: if you feel like you suddenly have the flu after being in the sun, drink some fluids and head to the doctor.

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