A sunburn can take you by surprise after a day at the beach or the pool. You don't begin to feel the effect of a bad sunburn until a few hours after the exposure, so you may not realize it until too late. Once you begin to feel redness, pain and swelling, the symptoms will probably last 48 hours. While a sunburn can't cause a third-degree burn completely through the skin, even a first- or second-degree burn can be very painful and make you feel quite sick. Although no controlled studies support the use of natural bath, this treatment may help decrease your symptoms.
Treat the Symptoms
A tepid bath with vinegar, oatmeal, baking soda or milk can help to reduce the pain and swelling of sunburn. You can soak in a tepid or cool bath several times a day if necessary. Don't shower, as that could make the sunburn more painful.
To make an oatmeal bath, blend a cup of any kind of oatmeal to a very fine powder in a blender or food processor. Disperse the oatmeal in running water, stirring with your hand to make sure no clumps form. The oatmeal should make the water milky looking and silky. Soak for 20 minutes, making sure that as much of you as possible is under the water. Don't rinse. Leaving a trace of the oatmeal on your skin can help with any itching that develops. Don't rub a towel on your sunburn; blot the skin gently instead.
You may try a mixture 2 oz. of baking soda in a tepid bath, or 2 cups of apple cider or white vinegar. A milk bath, using 1 cup of dry milk powder in the bath, also helps reduce the pain and swelling of sunburn. You can also use tea. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Take the water off the heat and steep four to six chamomile or green tea bags in the water until it is cool. Pour this strong tea into your tepid bath.
Sunburn can cause dehydration; drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day. Don't apply petroleum-based ointments or butter as they seal in the heat of the sunburn. Sprays that contain pain-relieving ingredients such as lidocaine can irritate the sunburn. In fact, because the skin is damaged, it will absorb ingredients in these products more easily. If you have blisters, treat them with an antibiotic cream to prevent infection.
See a doctor if you experience nausea or vomiting, chills, fatigue, weakness or a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Your physician may prescribe oral antibiotics if you have developed an infection or oral steroids if the swelling is severe. Wear sunscreen, a hat and long-sleeved shirt in the sun to prevent another sunburn.