Here Comes the Sun and Big Flares
Last updated: September 2022
I went outside to feel the sun on my face. The energy from its rays was magnificent. The way the sun felt on my face was warm and comforting. I bathed in all of the sun's glory for a few moments, putting my head back. What I thought was just a few moments turned into about an hour directly in the sun. Quickly, I realized those extra moments would hold me hostage to pain and fatigue for many days to come.
Sun and fun – not really
That one hour did me in. The fun in the sun literally made me sick. Sick to the point that I was in bed for several days afterward. I had to take a break to recover.
I remember in 2019 when I went on vacation with my family. It was a beautiful vacation that kept us in the sun for amazing fun. I took all the precautions. You know them, putting on a big floppy hat and 70+ sunscreen an hour before going out and reapplying every 30 minutes—purchased new sun-blocking clothes to cover up with. I took breaks and stayed in the shade as much as I could. I had no issues for 5 days and had so much fun in the sun. Finally, I found a way to enjoy a vacation. Or, maybe I didn't.
Here come the flares
It was day 6 of the intended 7. I was feeling a little tired, but I took all the necessary precautions and was going to turn in early. Unfortunately, lupus had other things in mind—extreme fatigue and hives. I became covered in hives from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. Scratchy, itchy, burning hives. It felt as if bugs were eating at my skin, and I looked like a hive of bees had bitten me. My body felt weak as the fatigue set in. Having just tried new foods, I thought I had an allergic reaction. After all, I took all the precautions to stay safe while vacationing. It got so bad I had to go to an emergency care center to be checked out.
It was the sun that did me in
Upon arrival at the emergency care center, the receptionist immediately stated, "Oh my, you have been in the sun way too long." She immediately took me in to see the doctor, asking for my medical history. I explained my history to her, and after her exam, she stated I had an allergic reaction to the sun.
The doctor gave me a steroid shot and told me to use two antihistamines and take cold showers to make me comfortable until I saw my doctor. I knew at that moment that I would have the longest 5-hour ride home the next day and an even more difficult time waiting to see the doctor at home. It was a long journey to quell the hives, and it started with me limiting my time in the sun.
Here comes the sun and big flares
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, people with lupus are prone to photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is when the UV rays from sunlight or even fluorescent office lights can activate and bring about a flare. The Lupus Foundation of America has found up to 50 percent of people with lupus will develop a rash from light exposure. Although we can take precautions to fend off flares like wearing sunblock or covering up, the most reliable precaution is to make sure you are not out during peak sun hours.
Although the sun feels great when you are in it, we have to be careful in all seasons as we battle lupus. We have to listen to our bodies and take the necessary precautions so we don't have to worry about the many issues that sun exposure can bring on to us. I have surely learned my lesson and will always make sure I am more mindful to avoid those big flares.
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?