Lupus is notoriously challenging to manage. It can seem like almost anything can trigger a flare – as if you didn’t have enough to deal with!
Once a personal trigger identified — such as a food or UV light exposure — you can work to avoid it. But changes in humidity, including both dry air and high humidity, can exacerbate symptoms.
Every person with lupus reacts to the weather differently. People with lupus find that their symptoms are greatly affected by the temperature, the humidity, the barometric pressure, and the ambient light levels around them.
Seasonal changes can affect people with lupus too, and, for many parts of the world, seasonal shifts can include different humidity conditions, along with heat and cold.
Temperature, Humidity and Lupus
Despite anecdotes suggesting otherwise, a study found no correlation between humidity and lupus activity. Flare triggers for SLE seem to generally be temperature related, or due to a change in seasons. The change in temperature, weather, and light that comes with a seasonal change is hard even on people who don’t have lupus. However, heat is a well-known trigger autoimmune disease, but it can also hold more water, which is why hot weather is often humid.
Cold weather is associated with a slightly higher rate of hospital admissions for SLE-related symptoms. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air, which dries out the nose, throat, and lungs. This irritation can trigger an inflammatory response. Humidifiers help to mitigate the effects of dryness.
Cutaneous Lupus and Humidity
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE) is a form of lupus characterized by red, ring-shaped discolorations on the skin. These “discoid lesions” are caused by inflammation, and often happen alongside systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE.) Discoid lesions can cause hair loss and scarring if they become severe.
In addition to being very sensitive to UV light, dry air – the lack of humidity – can irritate the skin and lead to worsening symptoms. The skin can be protected with sunscreen, lotions, and by avoiding sunlight and dry air. However, be sure to check any products you use for potential allergens.
Sjögren’s Syndrome, Lupus, and Humidity
15-18 percent of people with lupus are also battling Sjögren’s Syndrome. Another autoimmune disease, the two most common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome are dry eyes and dry mouth. You can read more about Sjogren’s syndrome here.
A humidifier can be a great investment for both Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus. It moistens the air and, as you breathe, your throat. Humidifiers put water into the air, which can both prevent moisture from leaving the body and help restore some of it.
How to Deal with Humidity and Lupus
People with lupus should keep track of how their symptoms interact with the weather. And determine what type of weather effects them the most.
In most cases, though, staying inside is a great way to minimize exposure to the weather and changes in humidity. You can control your indoor space with air conditioning and humidifiers, keeping things at a comfortable level that does not induce flares – so, in a sense, you can control the “weather” around you.
You can also control your own body to a degree. Keeping up a basic level of health to bring down and manage the pain and swelling. This means drinking plenty of water, eating healthily, avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, and getting plenty of sleep will help manage pain and swelling.
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