People with psoriasis can enjoy summer, but they also need to be careful about the triggers. Here’s how you can manage psoriasis in summer.

People with psoriasis may have noticed their symptoms improving during summer. You can thank the sun and the warmth for it. Even though summer is considered to be a better season for people with psoriasis, you cannot take things lightly. So, if you are thinking about whether or not you can go swimming in the pool or not? Will the air conditioner worsen psoriasis symptoms? You must be having questions like these if you have psoriasis. Read on to know all about psoriasis during summer and ways to manage it.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition characterised by rapid skin cell growth, leading to red, scaly patches that can be itchy and painful, says dermatologist Dr Pawan Singh. It commonly affects the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back, and can also involve nails and joints.

A woman with psoriasis enjoying the sunlight
Psoriasis can be due to lifestyle choices. Image courtesy: Freepik

It is caused by an overactive immune system triggering rapid skin cell growth. Genetic factors play a role, and environmental factors like stress, infections, and injury to the skin can trigger or worsen symptoms. Lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may also exacerbate psoriasis, says the expert.

What are the symptoms psoriasis?

The symptoms of psoriasis can range from mild to severe –

  • Skin redness with silvery scales
  • Dry and cracked skin that may bleed
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Soreness
  • Thickened nails
  • Swollen and stiff joints.

How does heat affect people with psoriasis?

Regularly exposing to sunlight may have an immunosuppressive effect, as per a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. This may help in reducing the frequency of psoriasis flare-ups.

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But prolonged exposure to sunlight or heat can lead to increased sweating, which may irritate the skin and trigger flare-ups, says Dr Singh. Excessive heat can also cause skin dryness, further aggravating psoriatic lesions. When it gets too hot and humid, people prefer to stay in rooms with air-conditioning. But if you have psoriasis, too much air-conditioning can dry out your skin.

Should people with psoriasis go for swimming?

Psoriasis is not contagious, so people with the condition can safely swim.
It can be even beneficial for them, but certain precautions should be taken –

1. Chlorinated pools

Chlorine can irritate your skin and potentially worsen psoriasis symptoms. The chemicals in the swimming pool can make your skin dry and increase skin irritation. Instead of completely staying away from chlorinated pools, keep your swim short. Once you are done swimming, rinse off then moisturise.

2. Saltwater

Natural saltwater, such as swimming in the ocean, may help alleviate psoriasis symptoms for some people, says Dr Singh. Saltwater is believed to have exfoliating properties that can remove scales and reduce inflammation.

3. Freshwater

Swimming in freshwater, such as lakes or rivers, may not have the same benefits as saltwater. Also, freshwater may contain bacteria or other microorganisms that could potentially irritate your skin or trigger flare-ups in some people.

A woman with psoriasis swimming in a pool
People with psoriasis can safely swim during summer. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are the ways to manage psoriasis in summer?

To manage psoriasis in summer, do the following –

1. Moisturise

Moisturisation is the key to rapid shedding of psoriasis scales, says dermatologist Dr Geetika Srivastava. Psoriasis responds well to liberal amount of coconut oil application. Opt for weekly body massage, as it can soften psoriatic plaques and relax your body and mind too. Moisturisation also minimises the sensation of itching associated with psoriasis.

2. Say no to exfoliation and scrubs

Some people use scrubs, loofahs or other exfoliating agents after spotting a new plaque or a fresh lesion of psoriasis. Don’t use them, as they can be extremely dangerous. Vigorous exfoliation of psoriatic plaques can remove the scales from top leading to bleeding. This can not only cause pain, but can make your skin prone to bacterial infection.

3. Wear breathable fabrics

Sweating can be detrimental for psoriasis, especially if they are associated with cuts and wounds. Wearing natural fibres like cotton, linen during peak summer seasons ensures easy air circulation and prevents the textile fibres from sticking to your skin. This helps in minimising irritation and itching.

4. Use ice

People with psoriasis often complain of heat and burning sensation from their skin lesions. This can be minimised by regularly icing the area of concern and by being in a temperature controlled environment which is neither too hot or too cold for you.

5. Moderate sun exposure

Exposing affected areas to sunlight for at least 15 minutes daily during peak ultraviolet rays (UV) hours can alleviate symptoms. This is because sun rays has the maximum UV rays composition between 10 am and 4 p.m. during which sun is directly overhead. This ensures better UV exposure in minimum time duration. But remember, excessive sun exposure can cause sunburns and irritation due to sweating. So, limit your sun exposure to not more than 15 minutes in a day, advises Dr Srivastava.

6. Saltwater bathing

Bathing in saltwater can have anti-inflammatory effects, beneficial for psoriatic plaques, which can heal. Combining saltwater baths with ultraviolet light therapy may help to improve symptoms of psoriasis, according to a 2020 research published in the Cochrane Library.

You should also exercise to manage stress and maintain a healthy weight, which are important for managing psoriasis.

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