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NEWS

Psoriasis in Spring and Summer

7 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

If you're among the vast majority of psoriasis sufferers, you've probably found that your psoriasis symptoms improve in the spring and summer.

Doctors believe the improvement comes from increased exposure of your skin to the sun's ultra-violet light, which suppresses the rapidly multiplying skin cells that are the hallmark of psoriasis. An increase in the amount of moisture in the air may also provide some relief, because dry skin can make psoriasis symptoms worse.

But some people find that warmer weather actually triggers psoriasis flares. And it can be hard to enjoy fun in the sun when you're worried about how people will respond to the appearance of your psoriasis.

Here are answers to seven frequently asked questions about psoriasis in summer and spring.

1. How can I safely use sunlight as a psoriasis treatment?

"You certainly want to avoid burning if you're going to use sun therapy," says Mark Lebwohl, MD, professor and chairman of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York University. "The idea is to get gradually increasing doses of sun without burning."

Building your exposure to the sun over time, increasing by around five minutes a day, will help you safely reach a psoriasis-easing dose of sunlight. Remember that the sun's ultraviolet rays can harm your skin, though, and make sure you aren't out in the sun for more than 30 minutes without applying sunscreen to minimize excessive sun damage. This will also help prevent sunburn, which can cause flares in some psoriasis sufferers.

Even when using sunlight as a psoriasis home remedy, you can take precautions to protect areas of skin without lesions.

"What I recommend for everyone is to put sunscreen on unaffected skin so that only plaques are exposed to the sunlight," says Melissa Magliocco, MD, acting chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Be aware that some psoriasis treatments make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so always discuss sun therapy with your doctor before you begin.

2. How will swimming in pools or the ocean affect my psoriasis?

The ocean's saltwater has been touted for centuries as a remedy for many medical conditions, and its purported benefits extend to psoriasis treatment. The combination of salt and water may help slough off dead skin, leading to a reduction in psoriasis symptoms. At the same time, your time in the water will provide beneficial exposure to the sun.

If you're headed for the pool, keep in mind that prolonged periods of time in heated water could make your psoriasis more uncomfortable. To reduce the likelihood that chlorine will strip your skin of its natural moisture and make your dry, flaky skin worse, rinse off in fresh water as soon as you can after swimming and rehydrate your skin with a gentle moisturizer.

3. Could a vacation help my psoriasis?

If you're headed to a vacation in the sun and surf, you're likely to experience an improvement in your psoriasis symptoms from the sunlight and saltwater — but they aren't the only beneficial factors.

"There are some psoriasis patients, undoubtedly, in whom stress plays a role," "It's a difficult thing to prove, but on the average, stress probably doesn't help anybody and removal of stress is always a good thing."

So, an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life could be a terrific psoriasis treatment. To maximize the benefits of your vacation, try to relax and enjoy yourself as much as possible. Need another reason to smile? The benefits of sun exposure can last for about three months, meaning you'll still be reaping the benefits of that August getaway in November.

4. How can I minimize psoriasis symptoms on vacation?

While we all like to kick back and indulge a bit on vacation, make sure you do so within reason. Alcohol can increase the likelihood of a psoriasis flare, so be cautious about those poolside pina coladas or evening cocktails. For more psoriasis protection, have your fun away from smoky bars (and definitely don't light up yourself) — cigarettes are thought to make psoriasis worse.

If you're headed to a tropical destination, it's important to know that traditional anti-malarial medications can trigger severe psoriasis flare-ups. You don't need to forgo your adventures or put yourself at risk, though, just make sure you speak with your healthcare provider about anti-malarials that don't cause psoriasis.

5. How can I camouflage my psoriasis when it's hot outside?

When the mercury rises, it can seem like torture if you're not comfortable throwing on shorts and a T-shirt.

"In the summer, if people want to wear long sleeves and pants, they should opt for light gauzy fabrics like cotton and linen," "Wearing lighter-colored shirts can be helpful for people with scalp psoriasis, because it helps to mask any scaling from the scalp."

There are also options if you want to camouflage your psoriasis while wearing summer clothes. Special dermatologist-approved make-up is available to provide the coverage you want to help minimize the appearance of plaques. Just make sure that you don't apply make-up to open skin or pustular psoriasis.

6. Will bug bites make my psoriasis worse?

Anything that results in trauma to the skin, including bug bites, has the potential to trigger a psoriasis flare, which may not appear until two weeks after the injury.

Because your skin is sensitive, be careful about the insect repellents you use, and opt for formulations that are low in the chemical DEET. On especially buggy evenings, try burning citronella candles to keep away insects and minimize the need to use chemical repellent.

7. I spend my summer days inside air-conditioned buildings. Will the cold, dry air make my psoriasis worse?

It might — anything that saps moisture from the skin can worsen psoriasis symptoms.

For an effective psoriasis home remedy, be diligent about applying gentle moisturizers on a regular basis. You can even help reduce scaliness overnight with occlusion therapy — just apply moisturizer to your plaques and cover them with plastic wrap while you sleep. By morning, the moisturizer will have penetrated deep into the dry skin, making it easier for you to wash it off in the shower.