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Woman walking along a path of varying seasons

Seasonal Upsurges of RA

If I can count on one thing when it comes to RA, it is the upswing in flaring when seasons change.  For many of us, without fail, as one season ends and another begins, flaring ensues.  What is so strange about this is the fact that weather, in general, does not impact my RA.  That is to say, rainy weather versus dry weather does not make a difference.  However, when spring is on the horizon, my RA inevitably reacts negatively. I have often wondered why this phenomenon exists, but I have no answer to it. And it is not just me.  Our RA support group has discussed this and we all agree, that with each season change, our bodies react. I wonder if it is because as the climate changes and temperatures rise or fall, our immune systems react. They need to accommodate the change and that means an internal struggle often results. Then, by extension, RA flaring may result as our immune systems react.

How to manage seasonal RA flares

There are lots of theories around about why this happens and some seem plausible, while others seem a little less likely.  Nonetheless, the key is coping with this and I have discovered a few things that help to ease this upsurge.

Have weather-appropriate clothing on hand

First of all, I know it is coming, so just having that knowledge, means I am more aware and therefore can do my best to be my healthiest and most vigilant during this time.  For example, pay close attention to temperature differences from one day to the next, so that clothing choices, for instance, are more accurate.  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has stated that the worst time for flus and colds is during the seasonal changes from winter to spring and summer to fall.  Well those are the worst times for me in terms of flaring.  I think because our bodies are so busy adjusting to the climate changes, they become more susceptible to joint discomfort and flaring.  I try to check on the forecast every day before I decide what to wear, in the hopes that making the right choice might make even the slightest difference.

Mentally prepare for seasonal changes

Secondly, I think that seasonal changes often bring with them a mental adjustment as well.  I know that going from summer to fall, my thoughts move from outdoor activities to the awareness that soon I will be indoors more, the daylight hours will be fewer, etc.  We should not dismiss the psychological effects that this has on our RA.  I will admit that as the last days of summer fade, it can be depressing knowing that early darkness and difficult weather are just around the corner.  I try to offset this by focusing on the beauty of fall and the fun of wearing comfortable, cozy clothes.  But these changes can translate into a disruption of the norm and that may bring with it flaring.

Practice mindfulness as a coping mechanism

Practicing mindfulness is another strategy to cope with seasonal effects.  I have been practicing this for a few years now and it has made a significant difference in my overall management of RA. By trying to live in the moment, embracing the circumstances as they present themselves, you can largely offset the feeling of forced change that seasons bring with them.  I try to start each day with a feeling of joy and positive anticipation of what the day holds in store for me.

So, if you experience the seasonal upsurges in RA that many of us do, do not despair. There are strategies to cope with and counter them.  Using them can make the difference in how you enjoy the 4 seasons as they unfold.

Nan

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • spljoy
    4 months ago

    Great article thanks. Just this morning I awoke with a major headache one that was just shy of a migraine. Of course, stormy weather was on the way. My husband said I am a human barometor and he is right.

  • David Advent moderator
    4 months ago

    Glad to hear this resonated with you, spljoy! I too can usually feel changes in weather in my joints. Strange, isn’t it? Thanks for being a member of our community! – David (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Sneed
    4 months ago

    On a related issue I have noticed a flare, usually mild or moderate, from changes in elevation. I live at 8000 feet but frequently go to another residence 3000 feet lower, usually for no more than 2-3 days. I never notice consequences from going down but always seem to when coming back. This usually resolves after a day or so so it’s nothing drastic but does seem to be a fact.

  • Jo J
    4 months ago

    Thank you, Nan. I have noticed since RA I am much more picky about my daily wardrobe. I just want to be comfortable in the current temperature. I think it helps reduce fatigue.
    I believe changes in daylight are a huge factor. I have had tremendous help by using a “dawn simulator” bedside lamp. I set a wake up time of 7:30, and the lamp gradually lights up starting at 7:00. An audible alarm goes off at 7:30. It’s such a gentle way to wake up! After a short time, I found it easier to go to bed on time and actually fall asleep. Most the time, the sleep routine helps reduce pain and fatigue a little bit.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    4 months ago

    Thanks for sharing Jo J! So glad that your dawn simulator clock has made such a difference for you. Sounds like a pleasant and gentle way to wake up. Sleep makes such a difference for many in our community. Wishing you continued relief ahead. Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthitis.net Team member

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    4 months ago

    In Indiana we tend to have tow seasons these days. Winter and summer. That may be the only good thing I know about global warming.

    Actually I would gladly take the four season and the flares if we could do wihtout global warming.

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