Many people with psoriasis look forward to the summer as symptoms often lessen during the warmer months. But that doesn’t mean it goes away. Overexposure to the sun, bug bites or harsh chemicals can still cause flare-ups.
Here are steps to help manage psoriasis symptoms during the warm weather.
Enjoy the sunshine
Sunlight can help reduce inflammation and improve psoriasis plaques and lesions. But before heading out in the sun, talk with your doctor. Some doctors recommend 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight each day - without sunscreen. Other doctors believe it is better to use sunscreen and stay in the sun a little longer. Keep in mind that some psoriasis medications can make a person more sensitive to the sun’s rays. Talk to your doctor about your personal situation.
While a few minutes of sun can be beneficial, a sunburn can trigger a flare-up. Make sure you wear sunscreen every day to avoid overexposure. Most dermatologists recommend sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 and one that offers broad protection - from both UVA and UVB rays. Opt for fragrance-free sunscreen to minimize potential skin irritation.
Enjoy the water
Swimming in salt water may help improve plaques from psoriasis by removing dead skin cells. Some people find that swimming in pools for short periods also helps psoriasis symptoms, although others feel the chlorinated water can dry out their skin. If you do go swimming, whether in the ocean or in a pool, be sure to shower afterwards to rinse off chlorine, pool chemicals and salt. Pat yourself dry with a towel and liberally apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
Enjoy the outdoors
Trauma, including bug bites, scratches or poison oak/ivy can trigger a psoriasis flare-up, and it can take from 10 days to two weeks to notice new lesions after trauma to your skin. When possible, use insect repellants that aren’t applied to your skin, such as citronella candles or clip-on insect repellant. If you must use an insect repellant that is applied to your skin, choose one with a low percentage of DEET.
Perspiration can also irritate the skin and increase psoriasis symptoms. If you are going to be outdoors in the heat, try to keep a clean washcloth and a bottle of water with you. Moisten the washcloth to wipe perspiration to reduce the irritation.
Choose the right clothes during the warmer months. Cotton or other natural fibers are best as they allow the skin to breathe and tend to be less irritating than synthetic fabrics. Keep your clothing light and loose so it doesn’t rub against your skin and cause irritation. Look for shoes and sandals made of leather rather than synthetic materials.
Summer is the season for being outdoors, getting together with friends and enjoying the sunshine. When you have psoriasis, it is important to take precautions to reduce the chance of flare-ups, but that doesn’t mean you need to hide indoors. Enjoying the summer sun is a great way to manage your psoriasis symptoms, as long as you take steps to take care of your skin.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.