With July coming this week and the weatherman promising soaring temperatures, I thought it might be a good time to share a story about a friend of mine (not one living here in GR) who was out working in the sun for a few hours last week and burned his back very badly. His arms (which had been exposed already for many weeks during the spring) didn’t burn, and he was concentrating on finishing his work, so it wasn’t until he came inside that he realized the extent of his injury. He was in pain for days, had trouble sleeping, and is just now starting to feel better…although his back is now terribly itchy as the skin peels.
As soon as I heard about it, I remembered a couple of miserable experiences I’d had with burns, and that my mother treated my back with vinegar, which smelled horrible but was very effective, so I recommended his trying vinegar, although I couldn’t tell him why it would work, just that I knew from experience that it had helped me. He was not convinced. I also remembered getting a terrible chemical burn from trying to process by hand my first bumper crop of jalapeno peppers from our garden. I was in such agony that I almost went into an ER, but when I called, they didn’t really make any promises of instant cures, so I started calling around. Finally, the Michigan State University Extension Service recommended soaking my hands in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. It really took the sting away, although as soon as I took my hands out of the water, they’d start to hurt again. I recalled that after many applications and a couple of days, the pain subsided, and so after my friend had suffered a day with the pain unabated, I encouraged him again to try vinegar. But, he was still unconvinced. However, he just called not long ago to let me know that he had done quite a bit of research on the internet and found that vinegar was among the common home remedies, and that he’d taken a tepid bath with some vinegar in the water, which had helped.
Two things came out of this uncomfortable experience. One is that I studied up on remedies for sunburn, and the other is to think about how often I recommend Christ as the solution for the “burns” of life, but often find that others aren’t convinced by my suggestions. In the final analysis, each person has to anguish, study, and seek out their own remedies for their problems. Below I’ve listed everything I found for dealing with sunburn, but I still believe from my personal experience that the world’s best remedy is the immediate (and if needed, repeated) application of apple cider vinegar. I haven’t listed everything I’ve learned about dealing with life burns (because the list would be legion), but I still believe from my personal experience that the world’s best remedy is the immediate (and repeated) application of Jesus Christ, submitting to him as Lord and asking him to save and heal us.
Help for sunburns:
- Get out of the sun and into the shade immediately; keep cool.
- Cool down quickly in cool shower or with cold compresses to insure all soaps, dirt, or oil-based lotions are cleansed away. (Soaps are too drying, and oil-based lotions can trap heat and exacerbate the burn.)
- Apply apple cider vinegar to the affected areas; if you can, take a bath with tepid water and 1-2 cups of vinegar. Save the water in the tub and repeat several times at intervals if needed over the next few hours. (It’s a great astringent and also helps restore proper pH balance.)
- Moisturize your skin, but not with petroleum or oil-based ointments that trap heat and cause more damage.
- Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen to decrease inflammation and relieve pain. (If you’re already on medications, you should check with your doctor first on this one.)
- Rehydrate by drinking extra liquids, including water, lightly fruited drinks, or sport drinks to help replenish electrolytes, both immediately and while your skin is healing.
- Take it easy and sleep. The burn and pain will make you tired. If you can’t sleep, try sprinkling a little talcum powder on your sheets to reduce chaffing. If your legs and feet are burned and swollen, elevate them to above your heart level to help stop swelling.
- Consult a doctor if you develop these symptoms: severe blistering, nausea, chills/fever, faintness, generalized weakness, confusion, patches of purple discoloration or intense itching.
- If your skin blisters, try not to pop the bubbles. (Some say you can use a sterilized needle if they’re very painful, but I wouldn’t recommend it.) Be aware that if the burn seems to be spreading, you could be developing an infection that might compound the problem.
- “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Always use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher about 30 minutes before going out, even if it’s overcast. (You can burn just fine through clouds.) Don’t forget lip balm with SPF, wear protective clothing and sunglasses (good for protecting from the development of cataracts when you’re old as well), and avoid prolonged sun exposure. Take extra care between 10am-4pm. Remember that if you’ve been burned, the new skin is even more sensitive; it takes 3-6 months to regenerate completely.
There are lots of other ideas for home and commercial remedies out there. To name a few: Cool, fat-free milk, buttermilk, or yogurt compress; wet tea bags on your eyelids; 2 cups of baking soda in a tepid bath; aloe vera; witch hazel; oatmeal…and the list goes on, including some very expensive glamour options. But, I haven’t found anything that works as well as plain, old inexpensive apple cider vinegar. It might not smell as sweet as a commercial product, but I believe it’s the most effective thing out there. Similarly, Jesus Christ and the plain, “old, rugged cross” (which was expensive for God but totally free for you and me) may not seem as fragrant or glamorous as a more costly solution, but it works! Please don’t put Christ off and suffer along because you’re not convinced. At least try!
“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2).