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5 Facts About Sunburn that Alzheimer’s Caregivers Should Know

As summer continues to heat up, so too should AD Caregiving endeavors to prevent sunburn for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). While a little dose of the sun each day is a great source of Vitamin D, too much of a good thing is bad for you.  The sun can cause damage to the skin, increase the risk for skin cancer, and cause drying, cracking and premature wrinkling of the skin.

A sunburn is the result of the natural process of the skin trying to protect itself from ultraviolet light by releasing a pigment called melanin.

We all know how important it is to bring along the sunscreen for a long day at the beach, but there are some very interesting, and not so well-known, facts about sun exposure that caregivers may be interested in knowing, including:

Fact #1: A sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes on an intensely sunny day (particularly for fair skinned people).

FACT #2: A sunburn begins before its effects (reddened, sore skin) can be seen or felt.

FACT #3: Blistering may not occur for several days after the skin is burned.

FACT #4:  The initial adverse effects of a sunburn commonly don’t show up for several hours (even with a short duration of sun exposure-like 15 minutes).

FACT #5:  It may take up to 24 hours for the full effect of a sunburn to show itself.

Natural Products to Soothe Sunburn Symptoms

So, it’s easy to see why prevention is the best course of action when it comes to sunburn.  Here are some tips on how to naturally treat a sunburn if you do overdo it:

Essential oils such as peppermint and lavender have soothing and pain relieving properties.  The peppermint oil acts as a natural pain killer and it cools down the skin.  Peppermint oil is known for soothing headaches as well, so in addition to drinking plenty of fluids (to combat any chance of dehydration resulting from being out in the heat, peppermint oil can also help relieve a headache caused by sun exposure.  Lavender oil is known to reduce the redness and burning sensation caused by a sunburn, it also has healing properties for the skin - such as anti-microbial (germ killing) abilities.  Adding Aloe Vera gel and coconut oil, essential oils can help replace moisture that is often times released as a result of blistering and peeling. 
Ground oatmeal (put it in the blender) added to a warm bath can help soothe dry peeling skin after a sunburn.  Chilled milk or plain whole milk yogurt, added directly to a washcloth, then applied to the skin via a cold compress, can be really soothing for a sunburn.  Let the yogurt sit for 15 minutes, then wash it off in the bath or shower.  If the sunburn is painful at night and interrupts the sleep pattern, try sprinkling a little corn starch on the sheets to reduce the friction on the skin. 

Tannic acid gives black tea its color, and can be very effective at reducing the redness from a sunburn, while helping to promote a quicker recovery.  Soak black tea bags in a pitcher of water until the water is dark colored.  You can use hot water to soak the bags and then cool it off in the fridge before applying it to the skin. Don’t rinse it off. The tannic acid can ease the heat and provide some much-needed pain relief.

Apple cider vinegar has long been known for its many medicinal properties, but it can also act as a potent sunburn relief agent.  Simply add a cup of vinegar to the bath with 1/4th cup of coconut oil and some lavender essential oil-just a few drops.  If you want a quicker way to apply the vinegar just make a 1:1 solution of water and apple cider vinegar and add it to a spray bottle, then spray the skin. 

If you or your loved one with AD gets a severe sunburn, or one that blisters, be sure to consult with your physician.

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