Sunburn relief toolkit

Oops. You tried your best. You know that the sun can damage your skin, causing premature signs of aging and boosting your risk of developing skin cancer. So you packed your sunscreen and you remembered to smooth some onto your skin before you headed out into the sunshine. But you still ended up with sunburn.

Perhaps you forgot to reapply every couple of hours? Perhaps you forgot to reapply after that quick mid-afternoon shower? Perhaps the SPF just wasn't enough for your skin type. For whatever reason, you're now over-baked, burned, and bemoaning your fate. What to do?

There is no quick cure for sunburned skin. Time heals. But as you wait for your charred skin cells to slough off and regenerate, you can take steps to soothe the pain, burn, and swelling associated with sunburn.

Here are 18 conventional and not-so-conventional items to add to your sunburn relief toolkit. Some you might have sitting around the house, others you may have to hunt down at health food stores or in the produce section. If your sunburn has blisters, don't apply anything on the burn without checking with your health care provider first.

The burn basics:

  • aloe vera: The gel of the succulent aloe plant has always been tops for treating sunburn, since it helps to stop pain and inflammation. The gooey mucilage acts as a protective layer over a burn, protecting the sensitive and exposed nerve endings. Squeeze the gel right from an aloe plant or rub on lotions, gels, or ointments containing aloe as a main ingredient.
  • Calamine lotion: This pink, milky lotion will soothe and calm reddened skin and can decrease the itch that often occurs as skin begins to heal.
  • OTC (over-the-counter) pain medication: Choose acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen to quell the all-over aches and pains that often accompany a burn. ASA (acetylsalicylic acid or aspirin) should not be given to children or teenagers because it may cause a rare but potentially fatal disease called Reye's syndrome.

Bathe your burn: sunburned skin begs for a soak.

  • water: To turn down the heat, turn on the tap for a cool bath or shower. You could also drape wet, cold cloths or an ice pack with a cloth wrapped around it (do not apply ice directly to skin) across burned areas for 20 minutes a few times a day. Drink plenty of water – sunburn can make you dehydrated.
  • baking soda: Shake half of a cup into a cool bath to relieve pain. Keep your baking soda bath brief to avoid drying out your skin – 15 to 20 minutes max. Also, when you're done, air-dry your skin so the powder can stay on your skin for awhile longer.
  • oatmeal: The benefits of oatmeal go beyond breakfast. Half a cup of uncooked oatmeal stirred into a lukewarm bath can calm irritated skin. You might also create a cool oatmeal compress: wrap oats in a loosely-woven towel (or cheesecloth), run cool water through cloth into a bowl, discard the oats, soak the cloth in the oatmeal water, and apply the towel every 2 to 4 hours.
  • vinegar: Another soothing bath trick is to pour a cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar into cool water and soak. Or soak a soft cloth in apple cider vinegar and gently pat onto sunburned areas.

Smoothing, soothing strategies:

  • corn starch: Pat a little corn starch on the spots where you might experience uncomfortable chafing.
  • talcum powder: Another anti-chafing tool, talcum powder can be shaken over your skin before you put on clothes or between your sheets before you tuck in to bed.

Easy on the eyes:

  • cotton swabs: Wet the tip of a cotton swab and stick it in the freezer for a while. Once it's good and chilled, use it to cool down burns on the delicate skin around the eyes.
  • cucumber: Like the cotton swab strategy, cucumber slices are meant to cool sunburned skin around the eyes. Simply slice a cucumber into thin wedges and rest them over closed eyes – then lie back and enjoy the cool, refreshing sensation!
  • tea bags: A cooled-off tea bag is the perfect fit as a comforting, cooling eye pillow.

Botanicals vs. the burn: These herbal ingredients should be used cautiously, and you may want to do a spot check first on healthy skin to see if there is any irritation or reaction from it. Check with your doctor before trying these herbal remedies.

  • calendula: Also known as marigold, this herb turns up in ointments and creams to treat many different skin conditions. Its anti-inflammatory properties could offer some comfort to red, angry sunburn.
  • eucalyptus: With its familiar mentholated coolness, eucalyptus seems like a natural option for soothing sunburn. The oil of eucalyptus can be applied to minor burns and sunburns, lending its germicide properties to the skin's healing process.
  • echinacea: Aside from its reputation as an immune-booster, echinacea has also been used to treat skin wounds, including acne and boils. New research is revealing its potential as a protector against sun damage. Try diluting echinacea essential oil with water in a spray bottle and spritzing it onto areas where skin is peeling and raw.
  • lavender: The oil of this fragrant shrub offers gentle pain relief. Lightly massage a few drops onto sunburned skin for a cooling sensation.
  • stinging nettle: You may be stinging already, but there is a homeopathic sunburn remedy made from a prickly flowering plant called stinging nettle. It is taken internally for mild, non-blistering sunburns.
  • witch hazel: Oh yeah, that oddly-named tonic Grandma always kept in her medicine cabinet! Witch hazel is an astringent made from the shrub of the same name, rich in tannins and catechins that can help quell inflammation from sunburns. Moisten a cloth or cotton ball with witch hazel and gently apply it to inflamed spots.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

Bug off, bug bites!

The world swarms with all different sorts of flying, hopping, and biting insects. For all of the variety of insect types, though, most bites result in the same symptoms: a red, itchy bump. From time to time, a bump swells and gets sore. If a person is allergic to an insect's bite, the symptoms may be more severe and bothersome. If infection results, medical attention is recommended. Otherwise, clean bites and apply an ointment if necessary. Should you be unlucky and get a cluster of bites, consider taking an oral antihistamine to minimize all-over itchiness.

Some bug bites need special care:

Black fly: Watch out around rivers, streams, and other bodies of water because the bite of a black fly, or gnat, can be painful and intensely itchy, causing swelling and soreness. Wash bites with soap and water. Follow up with antiseptic and an anti-itch cream. Very rarely, a person may have an allergic reaction to a black fly bite. If you feel sick or short of breath after a bite, seek immediate medical attention.

Chiggers: Chiggers are teeny-tiny, immature mites that hide in tall grasses and weeds just waiting to strike. They're young and weak, so they seek spots that give them some leverage so they can attach themselves to your skin, such as the waistband of your shorts or under the elastic that holds your socks up. And when tiny chiggers bite, the itch can feel enormous.

You may not know you've been bitten for a few hours, but then watch out! Pimple-like red bumps appear and it takes a will of iron – or an antihistamine – to keep from scratching your skin raw. Chiggers' grip on your skin is weak, so a shower or towelling-off will shake off any you might bring home with you. Folk remedies often call for sealing off a chigger bite from the air, usually with nail polish, petrolatum, or baby oil. Chiggers are a nuisance, but they luckily do not carry any diseases that are harmful to humans.

Mosquito: Mosquitoes buzz around in warm areas and near standing water. Potential carriers of diseases, mosquitoes bite and leave behind soft, pale bumps that last anywhere from 2 to 10 days and itch like crazy. Avoid infection by keeping scratching to a minimum. Apply calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream or take an antihistamine. An ice pack can reduce swelling. Signs that you need to seek prompt medical attention include fever, body aches, and nausea.

Tick: It's dangerous to wander into tick territory (tall grasses) because tick bites can be real trouble. The tiny bloodsuckers are capable of carrying and passing on many diseases, most notably Lyme disease. Remove the tick as soon as possible. Use tweezers to pull the tick directly out from the skin. Avoid twisting or crushing the tick when you are removing it. If the head stays burrowed beneath your skin, remove it, too, since it can lead to inflammation. After you've carefully removed the tick, cleanse the area with an antiseptic (e.g., alcohol) or mild soap and water. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. You should also have tick bites examined by a doctor, especially if you develop a rash or experience flu-like symptoms.

If possible, try to keep the tick by placing it in a small vial or zip-lock bag (use a double bag). The tick can be sent to a lab for further investigation, which may help in diagnosing your illness if symptoms develop. You can place a wet paper towel in the vial or bag with the tick to prevent it from drying out, since dried out ticks are harder to identify. If you cannot remove the tick, seek medical attention.

Of course, the best way to avoid all of this itching and irritation is to keep from getting bit in the first place. Before you head outdoors, stop and ask yourself, "How biteable am I?"

  • Have I applied and packed extra insect repellent? Depending on what type of terrain you will be in, you might need a special repellent. What turns off a tick may be different than what makes a chigger change its mind.
  • What am I wearing? Insects tend to turn away from light-coloured clothes, and loose-fitting garments tucked into clothing and shoes will keep burrowing bugs out. Keep your head covered, which will protect you from the sun as well as nipping pests.
  • Where will I be walking? Throughout your trek, stay in the middle of hiking paths and away from grassy, marshy areas where bugs tend to congregate and lie in wait.
  • When am I heading out? Different insects come out in droves at different times of the day. Know your surroundings and peak times for pests in the area.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

Protect your skin from 3 summertime rashes

Heat rash

Identify it: Expose human skin to hot weather and heat rash is always a possibility. Heat rash happens when sweat ducts become blocked. Sweat can get blocked in several ways – by clothes that don't let the skin breathe, by sweating excessively, by a buildup of bacteria on the skin, or by sleeping under too many blankets. So the sweat that should come out of the skin gets trapped beneath the skin and causes lumps that can be pimply, blistery, and red. Some cases of heat rash have no other symptoms aside from the rash, while others can be intensely itchy and prickly, thus the rash's nickname, prickly heat.

Resolve it: Heat rash generally resolves on its own without needing any treatment. Still, if it develops, get out of the heat. Reduce activity. Sit in front of a fan to cool down. Take a cool shower. If need be, soothe the rash with calamine lotion. Should the rash get worse, or if it is accompanied by pain, pus, fever, chills, or other signs of infection, seek medical help. Repeated bouts of heat rash can advance to a point where the body doesn't sweat enough, increasing the risk of heat exhaustion.

Prevent it: To prevent the prickles, dress cool. Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothes made of natural fibres that allow you to sweat as your body needs to. Avoid polyester – a chafing, synthetic fabric that's never at risk of being called "cool." Keep kids cool, too, by not overdressing them on hotter days.

Hot tub rash

Identify it: Bathe in a contaminated hot tub, spa, or swimming pool, and you could encounter Hot tub folliculitis. The human body is covered with hair follicles, the tiny pores out of which hair grows. Under certain circumstances (e.g., hot, wet conditions), a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa can come in contact with the hair follicles, causing an itchy, red, bumpy rash. The skin beneath your swimsuit may be especially susceptible, since the bacteria sits longer on that part of the skin.

Resolve it: Hot tub rash goes away on its own, unless you keep revisiting the contaminated tub or spa. Try an anti-itch medication if you're tempted to scratch. In severe cases, antibiotics may be needed to clear up any lingering infection.

Prevent it: Public hot tubs usually post advisories recommending that bathers take a shower before entering the water. Good advice! Take one after, too, just in case. Another way to protect yourself is to only bathe in sanitary tubs. A tub that smells bad or looks visibly dirty? Not so hot. If you're a home hot-tubber, regularly check the pH and disinfectant levels of your tub.

Swimmer's itch

Identify it: A rash that pops up within a couple of days of swimming in freshwater could be swimmer's itch. Exposed skin makes a temporary home for parasites that prefer ducks, snails, and other wetland animals. An allergic reaction to the tiny parasites causes a non-contagious rash that is red, raised, and, of course, itchy.

Resolve it: Swimmer's itch clears up quickly. Until it's gone, scratch the itch with calamine lotion, antihistamines, or anti-itch creams – not with your fingernails. Or soak in baths sprinkled with baking soda or Epsom salts. A rash that lasts longer than a week or that produces pus needs medical attention.

Prevent it: The parasites to blame for swimmer's itch thrive in warm bodies of water, especially lakes and ponds frequented by birds. So don't spend too much time swimming and wading in these types of waters. If you do swim in freshwater, stay out of the shallow areas, where more of the parasites hang out. After your swim, rinse your skin off and dry well.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: