Protecting yourself from sun exposure is an essential part of managing lupus. Many people living with lupus experience sun sensitivity, even if they are exposed for a relatively short period of time. Excess sun exposure can cause flares, resulting in joint pain, migraines, nausea, weakness, fatigue, fever or even organ inflammation. These are all manifestations of light sensitivity in lupus patients.
Follow these helpful tips to protect your sensitive skin:
- Avoid being in the sun during peak hours. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., it’s best to stay away from those brighter rays. If you must go outside, stay in the shade provided by trees, an umbrella or an awning. Installing sun shields on your house and car windows can also provide the UV protection you need.
- Wear protective clothes. To protect yourself from UV radiation, wear sun protective clothing that reflects or absorbs sunlight before it reaches your skin. Lighter silky fabrics can let the light through, so look for tighter weaves, longer sleeves and long pants. If you want to take away some of the guesswork, you can also find high-tech sun protective clothing designed to block UV rays at many sporting goods stores.
- Choose the right sunscreen. In addition to wearing protective clothing, cover exposed skin with sunscreen. Look for sunscreen that:
- has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 or more
- provides broad spectrum protection, blocking UVB and UVA rays
- contains physical blockers, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
- is hypoallergenic
Make sure you are protected:
- reapply when in the sun and then every one to two hours, especially if you are perspiring heavily
- if using other cosmetics, apply the sunscreen first
- store your sunscreen in a cool place and throw it away after a year
- Avoid common sunscreen mistakes. Apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before you head outside. Make sure to cover easy-to-miss areas, such as:
- the sides of your neck
- your ears
If you apply it too thinly, your sunscreen won’t provide the protection indicated by its SPF rating. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you should use about an ounce of sunscreen—or a shot glass full—to cover your body.
- Ask your doctor about your medications. Photo toxicity is a dangerous reaction that can happen when light and certain chemicals combine. For example, phototoxic reactions can occur when your skin is exposed to sunlight after you take certain medications. These medications include certain:
- antibiotics, such as azithromycin
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as diclofenac
- cardiac medications
Talk to your doctor to learn if any medications you’re taking might cause problems.
With some solid preparation, good choices and patience, lupus patients can enjoy spring and summer as well as anyone else.