Sunburn. Sure, it’s not a big problem most of the year in Canada but even the Pacific Northwest in summer can offer prime conditions for too much of a good thing. Nobody wants to get fried from a sunburn or exhausted from dehydration. No matter how happy the sun can make you feel, be smart and back up your sun-worshiping with homeopathy.
Ouch! 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 may not begin until 2-4 hours after the damage has been done and take as long as 24 hours to fully develop. A first degree sunburn causes skin to turn pink or red; a second degree burn is where the skin actually blisters – but both are painful and can increase the possibility of skin cancer down the road.
Did You Put on Your Sunscreen? Whether you can still hear your mother’s voice nagging or not, sunscreen does help prevent sunburn and may protect against some skin cancers. There are plenty of articles you can read to either convince or confuse you about sunscreen’s viability so do your research and back up your decision by covering your exposed skin as much as possible. Hats and long sleeves now make sense to me and are the safest, surest way to prevent sunburn or more serious damage from the sun.
The peak period of UV radiation is between 11 am – 4 pm with the greatest risk around solar noon, when shadows are at their minimum and the sun’s radiation passes more directly through the atmosphere. Be mindful of sun exposure especially during these hours.
Damage done: And then – despite precautions (or not), it happens. Red, painful, burning, tight skin leaves you feeling and looking as cooked as a lobster. 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. While topical aloe is a classic soother for sunburned skin, calendula cream or gel is another option. For sunburns, calendula gel is cooler and easily absorbed – but the cream works fine too (just be gentle rubbing it in). Calendula speeds the healing of injured tissues, so this is something you can also put on a wound or abrasion to lessen the chances of infection, promote a healthy regeneration of skin and minimize scarring.
Besides these topical aids, there are homeopathic remedies which will help your whole system respond more efficiently to sunburn and minimize any potential damage. A homeopathic remedy works to strengthen and support your healing response to any challenge so not only will the right remedy help the superficial skin symptoms of sunburn, but should also relieve any emotional or systemic symptoms which may accompany the burn. Below are a few of the more commonly needed remedies in cases of sunburn.
In choosing which remedy to administer, try to match the remedy’s symptoms to how the person describes their experience.
This is a great remedy for anyone heading to a tropical beach. It has a double-whammy of being good for both first degree burns (i.e. sunburn) as well as itching eruptions of the skin. So you can think of this remedy for itchy sunburns that may sting and burn, as well as insect bites or allergic hives that also have those same characteristics (itching, burning and/or stinging). The emotional symptoms can reflect this feeling of itching and burning as they may be irritable, impatient, and unable to get comfortable.
Consider this for someone who feels worse for being in the sun in general. Getting overheated, whether by the sun or simply in a hot stuffy room, can bring on a headache or even fever. They will want to be somewhere open, cool and shady and despite having dry, burning skin will have little thirst. They may be emotional, and their moods will change quickly.
This is a remedy for a more severe case of sunburn, where the pain and burning sensation is severe. The inflammatory symptoms will develop quickly after too much exposure to the sun. There may be eruptions and blistering of the skin which feels as if it has been scalded and burns terribly. As the physical symptoms are more extreme than Urtica urens, so are the mental/emotional symptoms and the person may be anxious or enraged and above all restless from their symptoms, “constantly attempting to do something but accomplishing nothing.” This can be a good remedy for any kind of burn (not just from the sun) where the symptoms match.
This is the remedy for someone strongly affected by the sun, and even in cases of heat-stroke or sunstroke, where the area affected turns bright red, throbs with pain, and is dry to the touch. The person may suddenly run a high fever and can have a bright red face but with cool extremities. There can be a pounding headache which will feel as though their head could burst. They may complain of pulsating, throbbing pain, and will be very sensitive to touch, light, and jarring. They may express great irritability and strong emotions and with the high heat or fever, even hallucinate. Belladonna means “beautiful woman” and people needing this remedy will often have an unusual glistening to the eyes.
Heat stroke or severe sunburns are serious conditions and medical attention should be sought immediately. On the way to the emergency room, you can give the homeopathic remedy every 15 – 30 minutes .
Administration and potencies of the remedies: You can apply Aloe or Calendula gel liberally and frequently for as long as needed. When using homeopathic remedies for cases of sunburn, 30C is a good potency to use and the one most readily available from health food stores or other homeopathic sources. In mild cases of sunburn, give 2 doses (each dose being 2-3 pellets) within an hour’s time. After that, repeat the remedy again an hour or so later. If, after 3 doses and several hours, there has been no improvement in symptoms, then you probably need a different remedy and can try something else. For most cases of sunburn, the right remedy will bring significant improvement within hours. Make sure the person drinks plenty of fluid (an electrolyte replacement drink may also be helpful) and keep them as shaded as possible for a few days.
Revel all you can during these precious days of sunshine, but use good judgment and homeopathy this summer and all those to come!