By: Howard Smith, MD
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With warmer weather, people often get the itch to travel. For lupus patients, vacationing could also mean sun exposure, which in turn can cause rashes, arthritis flares or even serious inflammation of organs. In fact, six to 10 people with lupus are sun sensitive.
But lupus patients can still spend time outside. With some solid preparation, good choices and patience, lupus patients can enjoy vacation as well as anyone else.
I recommend that lupus patients:
- 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.
- Wear protective clothes. You can wear a wide brimmed hat also 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 away, you can look at a sporting goods store for clothes designed specifically for sun protection.
- Keep the sunscreen handy. Over the course of the day, you want to apply and reapply every two hours. Specifically, get broad spectrum sun protection so it blocks both UVA and UVB. Make sure it is at least 30 SPF.
- 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.