If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, you probably already know that the symptoms can worsen if you are exposed to a trigger such as stress or certain foods. But, what about changes in the weather? Dr. Bill Johnson helps patients living with autoimmune conditions and offers some tips for managing autoimmune reactions when the temperature changes drastically as it does in North Texas.
What Is an Autoimmune Condition?
An autoimmune condition occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. Some commonly known autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, lupus and Crohn's disease.
According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, there are 50 million people in the United States living with one or more autoimmune condition.
How Does the Cold Affect Autoimmune Conditions?
For some individuals, living in cold temperatures can help control flares and improve symptoms, but for others, cold can cause disease progression and flares. This is because cold can cause stress on the body, and this stress triggers the immune system to start ramping up its defense of the body. Cold can cause spasms of the blood vessels, too, which can leave individuals with autoimmune conditions in extreme pain. Other side effects, including swelling, numbness and discoloration of the fingers, toes, ears and nose, can also occur.
While North Texas does not have the sustained cold temperatures of other regions, it can still get cold here. Granted, low temperatures are frequently mixed in with warm ones, but when the thermometer dips, there are a few things you can do to mitigate its adverse effects on your autoimmune condition.
If it is cold, we suggest that you:
- Dress in layers. It is easier to adjust to temperatures when you can remove a layer.
- Wear gloves and a hat to retain heat in your body.
- Stay inside if possible.
- If you must be outside for long periods, take frequent breaks inside to warm up.
- Exercise indoors instead of outside during the winter months.
- If exercising outdoors, stay moving and active as much as possible to keep your joints and muscles warm and more flexible. This also helps to increase circulation and reduces pain and inflammation.
What About Warm Temperatures?
Warm temperatures can also wreak havoc for those living with autoimmune conditions because some conditions cause photosensitivity in patients. So, spending hours at the beach or by the pool getting a tan is out of the question. For some, a few minutes of sun exposure can cause painful flares. Here are a few ways to reduce the occurrence of autoimmune flares when temperatures climb:
- Wear sunscreen. We suggest one that is broad spectrum and mineral based with an SPF of at least 30.
- Cover up. Sunscreen is not enough for many people living with autoimmune conditions, so adding a hat and a long-sleeve shirt can provide increased protection.
- Stay indoors. Yes, we know this is not as fun as getting outside, but too long basking in the sun's rays can leave you down for days or weeks while you recover from a flare.
- Limit sun exposure. If you can't stay in, we suggest only going out before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are less intense.
Are you living with an autoimmune condition? Call Innovations Stem Cell today at 214-256-1462 to learn how we can help.