How Sunshine and Heat Impact Lupus Symptoms

When you have the autoimmune disease lupus, you may dread the sunny, warm days of summer. But with a little planning and a lot of care, you can enjoy barbecues, beach days, and pool parties with the best of them.

Kimberly Bolling, MD, an expert physician in Bowie, Maryland, wants you to stay active to keep your body and its immune system strong. If you’re one of the 1.5 million people in the United States with lupus, she has some tips and insights to help you minimize the impact of sunshine and heat on your disease.

Be shady

Researchers have shown that lupus tends to flare in spring and summer, when the days are warmer and sunnier.  If you’re outdoors, try to limit most of your activities to before 10am or after 4pm, which are the hottest hours of the day and when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest. 

Seek the shade of trees and umbrellas whenever possible. However, no amount of shade can protect your skin from sunburns or the UVA and UVB rays that could set off a flare. Be sure to use sunscreen, too.

Stay safe

Even for her patients without lupus, Dr. Bolling recommends wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on sun-exposed areas whenever you’re outdoors, including in the winter. 

If you have lupus, sun protection is even more important because UVA and UVB rays don’t just burn your skin, they worsen your lupus, too. You even need sunscreen when you’re in your car, indoors near a window, or in offices or stores that use fluorescent or incandescent lights.  

Look for a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection as well as an SPF of 30-50. Use about two tablespoons to protect your entire body and reapply every two hours when you’re outdoors, or after swimming or sweating.

Keep cool

Ice-cold drinks may trigger a flare, but drink plenty of hydrating, healthy beverages such as filtered water flavored with fresh cucumber, mint, or strawberry. Higher outdoor temperatures increase your body heat, which can bring on a lupus flare. Staying hydrated with cool, but not cold, beverages brings your body heat down again.

You can even create your own cooling shade when you choose clothing and hats that keep the sun off your skin and also allow air to circulate over your body’s surface. Add the following to your wardrobe:

Protect yourself with a light jacket or bathing suit cover-up when you’re not in the water. If you don’t have a UPF bathing suit, wear a T-shirt or other long-sleeved shirt while swimming.

Take vitamin D 

Your friends may be going sunscreen-free for 10-20 minutes a day so their bodies produce the vitamin D they need to stay healthy and build a strong immune system. However, if you have lupus, don’t try to get your vitamin D from the sun. Dr. Bolling tests your vitamin D levels and prescribes a supplement, if necessary.

To get help with your lupus, call our Bowie, Maryland, office today at 301-352-0090 or request an appointment online. You can also send a message to Dr. Bolling and the team here on our website.

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