The weather has been glorious here for the past week, with cloudless blue skies and sunshine. It is so tempting to rush out and lie in it all day; but anyone with Still’s Disease, particularly those on certain medications, need to be careful in the sun.
Well firstly, many people with Still’s Disease find that too much sun/heat can actually make their symptoms worse. Others find that it helps ease their symptoms, but it is worth knowing the risk so you can monitor any patterns you find in your own condition. Humidity has a big part to play too, so keep an eye on that. Personally, I tend to feel better in the summer months, but if I am exposed to too much heat it can trigger the Still’s rash and make my temperature wacky. Eg. As it becomes cooler in the evening I can feel freezing cold and shiver like crazy, even though it is still warm – a kind of exaggerated reaction to the change in temperature.
Secondly, as mentioned before, many of the immuno-suppressant medications used to treat Still’s Disease increase your risk of developing skin cancers. This is because they act on fast growing cells, including those that provide the protective pigment melanin in your skin. Ever noticed your skin is paler, doesn’t tan as easily or burns more easily? We are much more susceptible to the damaging rays of the sun.
But all this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it; sunlight provides us with the all important vitamin D after all, as well as fresh air and a sense of freedom that are all good for general well-being. Nobody wants to be cooped up indoors all day. So what can we do to enjoy the sunshine safely?:
- Stay out of the sun/heat at the height of the day (11.00am – 3.00pm usually).
- Stay in the shade as much as possible.
- Wear a high factor sun cream. Factor 50 if possible. I use children’s sun cream, our skin is as delicate as theirs so why not!
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Wear cool, loose fitting clothes but try and keep vulnerable areas covered – feet, shoulders, neck etc.
- Wear a hat and/or sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Make sure you are comfortable – choose comfy sun loungers over wooden benches.
- Don’t overdo things! No matter how tempting it is, pace yourself.
One final pointer and one I have only learnt myself very recently – Eat safely. What do I mean by that? Well, (here at least) sunny days usually mean that the barbecue comes out. We all know that there are risks involved with making sure that BBQ food is cooked properly and so on. But did you know that this is especially true for immuno-suppressed people? We are majorly at risk of developing stomach upsets from undercooked food, raw foods, foods containing raw eggs or foods that haven’t been refrigerated properly – and these stomach upsets can quickly overwhelm our immune systems and become very serious. As with any infection, if this happens you may need to stop medication while you recover, which could lead to a Still’s flare.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice sausage barm, just be extra careful it’s been cooked according to guidelines.
It might seem a lot of fuss but it’s all common sense really and being aware of these things should mean you are able to make the most of the warm, sunny days that are (hopefully!) on the horizon. As I said before, it is good to spend time outside in nice weather. It does wonders for your spirit, triggering the release of natural endorphins, which lift mood and act as a natural pain killer. Plus there is something soothing about being outside and feeling ‘at one’ with nature; with only the birds and the breeze for company.
So get out there and enjoy the sunshine! 🙂