Tips for Dealing with Photosensitivity

July 7, 2017

As we approach summer, the days are growing longer and warmer, and the sun here in Los Angeles is getting more intense.  While most people long for summer heat, those of us with lupus dread the sun-filled days.  Many people who have lupus deal with a symptom called photosensitivity, or sun sensitivity.  UV rays are known to cause flare-ups of skin rashes, as well as fatigue, pain, and inflammation.  Photosensitivity is so common among lupus patients that rheumatologists generally recommend those with lupus avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible.  Los Angeles is not exactly an ideal environment for being sun sensitive.  But with a little creativity and effort, there are many ways to avoid the sun while still enjoying the summer!

1.) Do Outdoor Activities in the Evening

Try your best to avoid the outdoors during peak sun exposure times (11am-3pm). Instead, schedule your activities for late afternoon or evening to take advantage of cooler temperatures and fading sun.  Some fun LA outdoor activities you can do in the evening include walking in Griffith Park, strolling the Santa Monica Pier, enjoying a show at the Hollywood Bowl, or having a picnic at Echo Park Lake.  Take advantage of the warm weather and get outside as the sun starts to go down.

2.) Find the Shade

Be on the lookout for where the shade is when you’re out and about during the day.  When dining outside, ask your waiter to be seating under a covered porch or awning.  When at a park or outdoor event, scan the area for the best shade trees or structures.  Or, better yet, bring the shade with you!  Popup canopies are easy to set up, are relatively inexpensive, and can provide ample shade for outdoor events.  Another option is to always have an umbrella or parasol in your car to have with you whenever you’ll be out in sunny areas.

3.) Minimize Sun Exposure When Traveling

Driving or riding in the car can be problematic for lupus patients who are photosensitive, as sitting in LA traffic while the sun beats down on you through the car window can cause increased symptoms.  If you are not driving, try sitting in the back seat while riding in the car, as tinted windows provide extra sun protection.  If you are driving often, you may want to look in to adding UV protection to your front windows.  As there are strict regulations on tinting front windows in California, it’s best to check with a tinting company on the most up-to-date rules regarding window tinting.

4.) Cover up

If you must be outside during hot, sunny days, be sure to cover up with protective clothing.  You can purchase UV protective clothing at outdoor supply stores such as REI or Dicks Sporting Goods.  If you don’t want to go through the hassle of purchasing new clothes, you can use a product called Sun Guard (available on Amazon) that you put in the washer with your clothes to add UV protection to them.  Wearing a wide brim hat is also a great way to give yourself sun protection and shade.  And, of course, be sure to wear sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin.  It’s best to keep a travel size sunscreen in your purse or car, so that you’re always prepared for LA sun!

By Emily S. Nunez