Oh Mr. Sun, Mr. Golden Sun...
Sunburn – sure, I know most of us are saying “I wish!” when it comes to the possibility of sunburn right now. Nevertheless, eventually these overcast skies will give way to plenty of sun . As those of us who were here through the long heat wave last summer will remember, the Pacific Northwest can offer prime conditions for too much of a good thing– it’s no fun getting fried from a sunburn or exhausted from dehydration. No matter how happy the sun can make you feel, moderation is the best guideline to follow regarding sun exposure.
Sunburn: OK, almost everyone reading this has probably suffered from a sunburn at least once in their lives. Too much exposure to the UVA and UVB wavelengths in ultraviolet radiation (commonly from the sun but also from other ultraviolet sources) literally burns the tissues of our skin, causing the characteristic red, tender inflammation. Such an injury can happen within 30 minutes of being exposed, even less in tropical latitudes where the UV index is very high. For people who have little previous exposure (i.e. all of us up north by the end of a long, cold winter!), the susceptibility to burn can happen in as little as 15 minutes, although the symptoms usually don’t begin until 2-4 hours after the damage has been done and may take as long as 24 hours to fully develop. The greatest risk is around solar noon, when shadows are at their minimum and the sun’s radiation passes more directly through the atmosphere. A first degree sunburn is when the skin turns pink or red; a second degree sunburn is where the skin actually blisters, but both are painful and can increase the possibility of skin cancer down the road.
Prevention: Did your mother ever nag at you to cover up? Put on sunscreen? While sunscreen does seem to help prevent sunburn and may protect against basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, it doesn’t necessarily protect against the most serious skin cancer of all, malignant melanoma. There are plenty of articles you can read to either convince or confuse you about sunscreen’s viability so do your research and make the decision which seems best to you , but back up your decision by covering your exposed skin as much as possible. Hats, long sleeves, all those things my teenage daughters can’t imagine doing have come to make sense to me and are undoubtedly the safest and surest way to prevent sunburn, as well as more serious damage from the sun. Of course staying out of the sun during the peak period of UV radiation is also smart and for our location on the planet right now, I consider that to be between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. - but you can adjust this to your own geographic latitude and time of the year, as needed.
Damage done: And then – despite precautions (or not), it happens. Red, painful, burning, tight skin has left you in varying degrees of discomfort and dryness. Hopefully you got out of the sun before actual ulcers or blisters developed, but even a mild sunburn isn’t any fun. As the evening progresses, symptoms often become more uncomfortable, making sleep difficult.
Homeopathic Help: Sunburn or other ailments from too much sun/heat exposure often respond quickly to homeopathic treatment. Here are some homeopathic creams and remedies to keep on hand that can immediately sooth and speed the healing process:
7 Cream – This is a wonderful product to gently rub right on the sunburned skin. 7 Cream was developed by a British homeopath named Robin Logan and is an excellent all-round product for skin irritation, from eczema to chemical or radiation burns. It is parabens- and fragrance-free and full of fabulous organic ingredients including Manuka honey, shea butter, aloe vera, calendula, neem, avocado and coconut oils. It goes on gently and sooths all manner of irritations and is one of those products that belongs on your medicine shelf or travel kit (for more information, go to www.natural-skin-health.com) during all seasons.