Guest Contributor Dr. Anca Askanase Offers Tips for Enjoying the Outdoors in Summer Despite Lupus

Be safe from sun and insects, exercise wisely

Sun and Safe

Lupus expert Dr. Anca Askanase offers these tips to help you enjoy the season’s nice weather while protecting against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

  • Avoid midday when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Enjoy the view from under an umbrella or a shady tree.
  • Apply and re-apply sunscreen every two hours throughout the day with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Make sure to hit spots easily overlooked like behind your ears and backs of knees!

Get Rid of the Fly in the Ointment

Flies, mosquitos, gnats, bees – no one’s favorite part of summer. But for people with lupus, insects are more than an annoyance. Many lupus patients are susceptible to bug bites and can have a severe reaction. To reduce the risk of insect bites, Dr. Askanase advises that you:

  • Cover exposed skin. Insects tend to be most active around sunrise and sunset so be sure to cover up at those times. The same long sleeves and long pants that protect against UV rays do double-duty by protecting against insects bites.
  • Apply insect repellent before going outside. Repellents that contain diethyltoluamide (DEET) are considered most effective.
  • Avoid areas near water, like ponds and swamps where mosquitos are commonly found.
  • If you do get a bite, wash the area with soap and water and try not to scratch to avoid infection. If in pain or the area is swollen, try painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol and place a cold compress over the area to reduce the swelling.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you seem to have a more severe reaction such as swollen glands, hives or difficulty breathing.

Exercise – But Don’t Just Do It!

With or without lupus, exercise is a must-do. Done right, exercise can lower your risk of injury, help burn calories, improve your outlook and relieve stress. Dr. Askanase tells her lupus patients to start out slowly to avoid aggravating lupus symptoms by working joints or muscles too much. She recommends:

  • Talk to your doctor to decide on an exercise plan that works for you. Ask about activities you would really enjoy and be more likely to stick with.
  • Apply cold packs after you exercise and heat if your joints are sore.
  • Cut back on your exercise if your joints are painful, inflamed or red. You can build back up as your joints recover.
  • Ask your doctor about weight training, whether it’s lifting small dumbbells (cans of soup work too) or doing push-ups. This type of exercise is important for all women to strengthen bone density. But it’s even more important for people with lupus who may take prednisone, since this increases the risk for weak and brittle bones by depleting the bone-booster mineral, calcium.