Lupus and Vacation: Tips to Prevent Flares

You can enjoy vacation more by planning ahead
woman sunbathing in river floating on tube

If you have lupus, planning for a vacation can feel daunting. After all, vacationing often means sun exposure, and this can lead to rashes, arthritis flares or even serious inflammation of your organs if you have lupus. In fact, six to 10 people with lupus are sensitive to the sun’s rays, says rheumatologist Howard Smith, MD.

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But you can still spend time outside. “With some solid preparation, good choices and patience, it’s possible to enjoy your vacation with lupus as well as anyone else,” he says.

Dr. Smith recommends the following if you have lupus:

  1. Avoid being in the sun during peak hours. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s best to stay away from those brighter rays. “Even on cloudy or windy days, the sun can surprise you and cause more exposure than you realize,” Dr. Smith says.
  2. Wear protective clothes. You can wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothes that reflect or absorb sunlight before it reaches your skin. Lighter, silky fabrics can still let the light through, so look for tighter weaves, longer sleeves and long pants. If you want to take some guesswork out of it, you can look at a sporting goods stores for clothes designed specifically for ultraviolet sun protection.
  3. Keep the sunscreen handy. Over the course of the day, you want to apply and reapply sunscreen every two hours. Dr. Smith says to get a broad spectrum sunscreen so it blocks both UVA and UVB, and make sure it’s at least 30 SPF.
  4. Watch out for reflected sun.  Sunlight can bounce off of water (or even snow) and cause intense exposure. People may not always realize how radiation can go through glass. Some people get rashes and fatigue just from sitting in their cars. If this is an issue for you, consider installing sun shields on your house and car windows for UVA protection.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about what you can do to avoid sun exposure and risk of flare.

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