From sun sensitivity to leaving your meds on holiday island, we've all been there with these typical summer mishaps
1. You’re in Ibiza, your meds are in Basingstoke
We all know what it’s like in the hours before you leave for the airport. If you’re a parent you’re frantically downloading Beebies and cramming a few more boxes of raisons into a backpack. In the pre-kids laid-back years the taxi driver has to be practically leaning on his horn before you even start getting your case down from the loft.
Either way, it’s pandemonium in the hours before leaving for a holiday, and you can bet your last Euro that something will get left behind. Don’t let that something be your medication, because getting it replaced when you’re abroad will be a) a major pain and b) probably very expensive. And missing your meds all together is never a good idea.
Write yourself several massive memos – bigger than your head – and stick them to the front door, the top of your suitcase, your bathroom mirror and the cat. Make sure you put medication in your hand luggage rather than your suitcase, or better still in a bumbag around your waist, to avoid being separated from it en route.
Of course, a really good idea is to book your holiday for a period when no meds are due. And if you’re that organised, we salute you!
2. You let your mates choose the sunny table
Nobody likes to make a fuss, especially on a chilled out summer’s afternoon at the pub, picnic or BBQ, but this is one occasion when you really do need to get your own way, and get the group to sit in the shade. Sitting in direct sunlight, on hot days, is good for nobody, but it is especially bad if you’re on certain medications, or if you suffer from lupus and psoriatic arthritis.
Methotrexate and sulfasalazine are well-known for causing sun sensitivity – making you more at risk of burning and causing permanent damage to the skin, including skin cancer – but did you know that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can also cause you to be more sun-sensitive?
Make sure you read the information included with your medicine, whatever it is, to find out if sun-sensitivity is a side-effect, or ask a pharmacist, nurse or GP. Avoid the hottest times of the day, cover up and wear sunscreen anyway. Always sit in the shade, and don’t be tempted to get blind drunk in the sunshine, as that’s when it’s easy to forget the safe sun rules. And get a fake tan; there’s really no better way to tan, and they are so realistic these days. Just ask…well…everybody!
3. You get a bad attack of summer friskiness!
It’s not a myth – we do have more sex in the summer time. Nothing wrong with that per se, in fact there’s a lot that’s right with it (endorphins are great natural painkillers). Summer sex turns into a summer blooper when it’s unprotected. Girls taking certain drugs need to be careful not to get pregnant, and guys taking those same drugs need to take care not to get anyone pregnant. The sex might have been amazing, but the potential outcome much less so.
For the majority of medicines used to treat arthritis it is essential that women don’t get pregnant, and for men taking methotrexate, leflunomide and biologics it’s vital they don’t get anybody pregnant. This is because some medicines can cause changes to the developing cells of a new baby, possibly leading to deformity, and in some circumstances may lead to miscarriage. Read more.
This one is easy to avoid – carry condoms with you or don’t have sex. No tricky predicaments, tough decisions or walks of shame. Result.
4. You forget that Pimm’s is a real drink
Yes, okay, it tastes of fruit, looks like Ribena and even comes with a straw but, people, Pimm’s is real booze! Same is true for Mojito’s, strawberry cider and white wine spritzers. It is absolutely not true that if a drink tastes of sherbet it doesn’t count.
We know it’s easy to forget you’re drinking real alcohol when the sky is as blue as a cartoon, you’re wearing a “fun” playsuit in a pineapple print and the uni student waiter that served you looks no older than 15. Believe us when we tell you there’s nothing kiddy about the smacking great hangover the day after. Ouch!
Too much booze plays havoc with arthritis. Some medicines, when combined with alcohol, can affect liver function. Excessive alcohol intake also loads on calories and allegedly brings with it other unhelpful habits like smoking, dabbling in drugs, having unprotected sex with strangers in the right kind of sunglasses and calling your boss a twonk. Jobless is not a good look. Jobless with very sore joints and a drug habit is even worse.
Your doctor can give individual guidance as to how many units of alcohol may be suitable for your individual circumstances per week, though this can’t be splurged on just one event (see above). This is especially important if you’re taking methotrexate or leflunomide because of the possibility of an increased risk of liver damage with this drug. But, the same advice can apply for other medicines, not just methotrexate. Read: The truth about arthritis and alcohol
5. You over-do it
Who wants to stay indoors and rest when everyone else is outdoors having a great time? It’s so tempting to do stuff in the summer – holidays, festivals, parties, summer walks, gardening, climbing Everest, walking the Inca trail, swimming with dolphins, space travel – but you really do need to pace yourself. Check out this very useful guide to pacing yourself and this survival guide for the Festival season.
6. You try one of those “beach body crash diets”
Crash diets have to be the most insane activity on the planet after twerking and series-recording Made In Chelsea (every episode’s the same, yes?). Anyone that tells you that you can lose two stones in two weeks, just in time to get into that itsy bitsy bikini, is a big fat liar (you see, their crash diet didn’t work either). The only thing you’ll get from a crash diet is exhaustion and bad breath.
Fatigue is a major part of living with arthritis and absolutely the worst thing you can do is muck around with your nutritional intake and confuse your natural metabolism. Your body needs regular meals made up of the five food groups to keep fatigue at bay, feel energised, help keep your spirits up, and help cope with the physical stress that arthritis puts upon your body. Check out what nutritional scientist Eleana Papadopalou has to say about nutrition for beating fatigue.
If you do want to lose weight the best thing you can do is to check in with your GP first, who can help ascertain if it’s really necessary, by checking your BMI with you, and talking through a sensible way to do it that might actually work. Weight loss is best done in a controlled manner over the long-term, with support; think of it as a lifestyle change. Summer crash diets are as pointless as McBusted. Avoid both.
7. You take up tennis just because Wimbledon is on
Tennis puts incredible strain on shoulders, knees, ankles and wrists. We’re not saying don’t play it at all, we’re saying don’t borrow your mate’s racquet, chuck on an old pair of trainers and sprint to the nearest court hoping the ladies might mistake you for Juan Martin Del Potro. Same goes for footie, however amazing the World Cup has been, and however many phone numbers Claudio Marchisio has added to his Contacts.
Taking up sport is a great idea, obviously; it helps keep joints supple, your body strong, lifts mood and alleviates tiredness. So, which sports should you try? Ok, no one looks sexy in a swim cap, but swimming is an ideal option because it puts less strain on joints. If you’re sick of hearing that swimming is a winner – we know it gets trotted out a lot – don’t despair. As modern drug treatments and earlier diagnoses are helping to manage arthritis before it causes too much damage to joints, people with arthritis are staying stronger, more flexible and better able to participate in a wider range of sports. Strength training has been shown to be especially helpful, and is definitely not for wimps. Read: Five reasons why strength training for arthritis is creating a buzz
The best place to start if you’re interested in taking up a sport is to get some advice from your physiotherapist, occupational therapist or nurse.
By the way, ladies, if you need an excuse to gawp at some hot totty on the tennis court check out this Top 20 men’s tennis players by hotness from Buzzfeed.
8. You cover up with thick black tights, long sleeves and long trousers
We want to give you a big hug right now, guys and girls. It’s so hard to come to terms with the different shapes, sizes and colours your sore joints take on, and it can be painful to deal with people staring at them. All you want to do is hide them away. Even the joint supports, if you have to wear them, feel ugly and cumbersome, and horribly hot.
It’s much easier said than done, but learning to accept and love your body, swollen joints and all, is the route to a happier, more confident you, and a much cooler, fresher faced you in the summer time too. Being overheated for any period of time is physically exhausting – your body has to work harder to keep itself cool.
Leave the heavy layers at home, wear light layers for sun protection, or no layers if you’re out of direct sunlight, and you keep that head up and feel beautiful. If anyone objects to the sight of a knee support or a puffy ankle remember that it’s their problem not yours. In reality, you’ll find that most people are too busy caring about their own “weird” bodies to notice yours.
If it feels too much to head out without the safety net of thick black tights, try doing it one hour at a time. We promise you’ll start to feel more confident and it won’t be long until you’re totally liberated. Read: How to build up your body confidence
9. You forget to plan your appointments
It’s a whole year since last summer, and the pain of diary planning at this time of year has faded. So, yet again it’s creeping into August and you realise that your schedule of hospital appointments is awry.
Many things conspire to make trips to your rheumatologist, physio, GP and the like harder in the summer time. University students will be heading home for the long vacation and out of range of their normal health team. Parents will be up to their eyes in sorting school holiday childcare arrangements, and can find it impossible to make time. Dates of trips abroad can collide with appointments, and health professionals will likely be away on annual leave too (how selfish). It takes more effort to get the calendar straight at this time of year, and the best tip we can give you is don’t leave it too late. Alternatively, get yourself a support team the size of Kim Kardashian’s.
10. You wear yourself out being Super-Mummy or Daddy
Depending on whether your children are in the private or state system, school summer holidays can range from six to 12 weeks in duration. Parents will find these weeks a particularly strenuous time. Okay, there’s no school run to do, and with luck the children might sleep in a bit later, giving you all a bit of extra rest, but overall the school holidays are an exercise in mental and physical endurance for all parents, and especially those with arthritis.
It’s important that you set your personal limits, get help wherever you can and, if your children are old enough, find a way to explain to them that mum or dad needs some rest time as well as play time.
See if you and a friend can help each other out with playdates so you at least get a couple of hours break in the day. Make use of summer clubs if you have them near you. Let grandparents, aunts and uncles help. Mix quieter activities up with more active ones – even boys will do craft if there’s a superhero theme involved. Make friends with the DVD player, and thank our Lord Walt Disney for Frozen. Read: How to keep up with the kids