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How do you prepare for a flare?

How Do You Prepare For A Flare?

Well, the title makes it sound very poetic, but it’s not.

If you’re someone who flares on a schedule – and I know there are some people that do, like you flare once every three months – you can better prepare yourself than someone who goes to bed at night feeling okay, and wakes up the next morning feeling awful.

And to be clear, that doesn’t necessarily constitute a flare.  There are plenty of days when I don’t feel good, but I’m not flaring.  And that just comes with the territory.

So how do you deal – both physically and emotionally – when you flare, whether you have notice or it simply creeps up on you?

  • If your flares are characterized by pain, you’ll want to make sure that you’ll have any pain meds on hand that you need. If you have difficulty getting the medication, it might be hard if you extremely fatigued to contact your doctor or make an appointment.
  • If you can, plan meals ahead of time and freeze them, so you will be able to be nourished, but won’t have to have the energy to cook.
  • Hire someone to come in and clean for you if you are unable to.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Rest when you need to. You might have to beg out of social obligations, but hopefully your friends and family will understand.
  • Make sure you have on hand hot pads or cold packs, or biofreeze, or any other kinds of over-the-counter remedies that you use that help you.
  • Make sure to take your medication on schedule. When we don’t feel good, it’s easy to think that the meds aren’t working, so why should we bother taking them?  But most RA meds can’t just simply be stopped, so it’s important to keep your medication schedule until you’ve talked to your doctor.

I think the holidays can be a difficult time for anybody, but especially for people with RA.  There are often a lot of expectations regarding gifts, entertaining, etc.

We hope that we don’t flare so we won’t have to disappoint people with our absence at events.

But many of us get sucked in and end up with far too many things on our plates.

And it is exactly this kind of stress that leads to flares.

It’s not uncommon that many people have flares during the holidays, so the new year is a great time to focus on what you need to stay healthy.

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


  • Connie Rifenburg
    5 years ago

    Earlier in my RA, I had periods of time where I felt ‘normal’. Then came the life changing 2-year flare. Yes, one long incredibly horrible flare. I lost my job, my home, had to go on disability and I went through this as a single woman. No husband/boyfriend to help.

    So many changes happened during that 2-yr flare that for several years afterward, minor stress would cause a lesser flare – even ‘good’ stress like holidays, etc. but all of my flares brought me to my knees with emotional and physical pain. – nothing I could plan for.

    Only in the past months has my RA come under control for a “real” length of time. No hospitalizations with pneumonia, no hives, allergic reactions, nausea, …the usual… cross symptoms of RA. But I’m gun shy. How long will this last? What did we finally do right that made the RA stop flaring?

    I feel as though it’s like looking back on child birth (sorry guys). Women “remember” the pain of giving birth, but do we really remember the “pain”? If we actually remembered the pain, women wouldn’t have more children! Ha! But what I think I remember is how I “felt” during that pain.

    This is what I attribute to remembering the pain of a flare. I KNOW it was incredibly painful…crying with pain, unable to get out of bed by myself, burning, shooting, stinging pain- but those are just words until I actually feel it again. They are just ‘descriptions’ of my pain because each of us feels our pain in a different way. Only similar enough so that we can have empathy with anyone else who has gone through or is going through a flare.

    Maybe what I’m saying is that trying to be prepared for a flare is like trying to be prepared to give birth. Man Plans – God Laughs. so I thank goodness He has given us a short “memory” for that kind of pain, and rather than preparing, I’ll just deal with it when it comes.


  • Lisa Glavish
    5 years ago

    I so get this! It’s like being shellshocked. Every time a flare starts, even just a small one, we wonder “is this going to be one of those big ones?”. As time goes by, and the flares are minimal we begin to relax. We begin to worry less and to live our lives more. Doctors say that depression is common with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s no wonder we can become depressed after living with a disease that can cause such incredible pain. Anyway, I enjoyed your reply and very much understand what being gun shy is in the context of RA.

  • Lisa Glavish
    5 years ago

    I rarely comment on blogs anymore, but on this one I do have to speak up.

    If I did not have rheumatoid arthritis and I read this article, I would think that rheumatoid arthritis was really not that bad. Some of the flares I’ve had were so severe that I cannot so much as roll on my side in bed. My husband has to help me to the toilet, brush my hair, feed me with a spoon because I cannot get the spoon to my mouth. The trip to the doctor, involves a wheelchair.

    It is important that we distinguish between mild, moderate, and severe flares.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    Lisa, thanks for your comment. This article was in no way trying to make RA “really not that bad.” I’m sorry that you read it that way. At times, my boyfriend has had to do for me some of the same things that your husband has to do for you. I was merely trying to make flares a little easier on people by providing some tips.

  • Angela Lundberg
    5 years ago

    I wish I could prepare for flares! Mine always seem to be completely random. Well, with the exception of when a lot of stress is going on in my life. In that case it’s a good bet that I’m going to have one. Otherwise I have no clue. So frustrating!

    And, I like that you brought up the issue/fact about how people with RA often have days when they’re NOT flaring, but they don’t feel well either. I have many of those days and I feel like many family members, especially, can’t understand why I’m not active and wanting to run around like a healthy person.

    Thanks for the article, Leslie! 🙂

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    Angela, thanks for the comment! Glad you found the article helpful.

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