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Spring into…a Flare?

Here in the northern tundra of Minnesota, it looks like Spring has finally sprung. Or, it’s trying to anyway. The giant mounds of snow everywhere have been steadily melting down and today everyone is excited because the temperature is supposed to hit 67 degrees (Fahrenheit) by the end of the day. With this increase in temperature, I also foresee a surge in people parading around in ridiculous attire, such as sporting shorts and blinding us all with their lily-white Minnesotan legs. I’m already seeing kids walking the halls wearing sandals (no socks) in the middle and high schools where I substitute teach. We are READY for Spring!

Humid weather and flares

There is one aspect of warmer weather that I’m not ready for, however. I’m not ready for the increase in pain and swelling that warm and especially humid weather brings. My RA body does NOT like hot, humid weather. And here in Minnesota, “typical” Spring days consisting of sunshine and dry, cool breezes don’t last very long. We usually have a very short Spring and then jump into sticky, hot summery weather. I hate it, really. I should probably just move somewhere else during the summer.

Coincidentally (are there really coincidences?), my RA is flaring up pretty bad right now, and the flare started around the time the temperatures here began to warm up. Joints especially affected include: both feet and ankles, both hands and wrists, knees, elbows, and shoulders. But it’s my poor, swollen feet and ankles that are the worst (as usual). My right foot and ankle are especially swollen, puffed up like a misshapen marshmallow, and radiating a constant, stabbing pain. I feel like I have hundreds of little shards of glass embedded in my ankle, twisting and screwing themselves deeper into my tender flesh. It’s awful. And it’s not going away.

More prednisone to deal with my flare?

So, despite not wanting to do this, I recently contacted my rheumatologist’s nurse and told her what’s going on. She consulted with my doctor and then sent over a prednisone burst pack to my pharmacy to take in order to hopefully make this flare-up calm down. More prednisone? Noooooo! But I knew it was coming.

Prednisone, AKA “The Devil’s Tic Tacs” (I love that term, whoever came up with it), has been a constant source of frustration for me over the last five years or so. I’ve written and complained about this a lot already, but for those of you who don’t know, I basically haven’t been able to taper off this powerful drug for a long time. And I desperately want to! I despise the side effects: weight gain, water retention, difficulty losing weight, mood changes, moon face, humpback/neck, insomnia, agitation, increased hunger, and the list goes on.

Despite all of its nasty side effects, the thing about prednisone is that it actually works. And it works quickly, which is important when you’re in serious pain. So after work today, I will trudge over to my pharmacy and pick up this new prescription and choke down the little white pills that will hopefully make my pain and swelling get better. I’ll have to put my weight loss efforts and goals on a back burner while I fight to extinguish this agonizing flare-up with the only weapon that really does the trick. Those evil, beautiful Devil’s Tic Tacs.

While I’m fairly confident that increasing my prednisone right now will help, I am anxious about what’s going to happen to my body as the weather continues to grow warmer and more humid. When I should be excited for it, I’m really dreading the end of winter. I’d rather be cold than in worse pain, suffering more than I already am.

Where can I move to this Summer? Antarctica is nice, right?

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.


  • Mamies Girl
    7 months ago

    I’ve been struggling with RA for years, but I didn’t realize that heat and humidity make it worse. I have moved to the worst place for that, Washington, DC., and I have been having flares of late. It is somewhat comforting to know that this is fairly common, and it’s not that the RA is getting worse. I made the connection between stress and extra hard physical work with flares but didn’t know about heat and humidity. I wish there was more hope.

  • lindar1207
    7 months ago

    I thought it was just me with the hot weather. Guess where I live? Florida when I tell people I love when the temperature goes below 75 I’m in heaven I feel so good. The heat just kill’s me

  • Lulu0229
    7 months ago

    I try to explain this to people and they don’t understand. You have explained the experience quite eloquently. Thank you for sharing.

  • Susie Que
    7 months ago

    Devils Tic Tacs is pretty accurate!
    It’s a love hate relationship. It nearly killed me 3 years ago so I’m extremely careful now but it’s a necessity sometimes, hate it or not.

  • gweniem
    7 months ago

    Oh, I am so understanding this wonderful piece written by Angela Lundberg. I have pain in the same places plus my hips and lower back. I, too, may have to rKW prednisone which I try not to take ever and for exactly the reasons she notes. What can we really do?

    I do find CBD oil in high concentrations ameliorates some pain. Since I am not addicted to anything, I wonder why I can’T be prescribed a pain killer that might let me actually get to sleep instead of writhing on the sheets. I have nights with maybe two hours of solid sleep if I have lots of pain. I was wondering the other day if its worth it. That is exactly how bad it gets.

    Sincerely, gwenie

  • mattie
    7 months ago

    I certainly understand your comments on steroids and I am familiar with the lovely moon-face, etc. But you are right- they work!

    Plus the drug is inexpensive compared to my other RA drugs including Enbrel.

    I hate taking the steroids but it is simply a choice for quality of life. –

    Can you imagine how bad we would hurt if we did not have steroids!? Thank goodness for the Devil’s tic- tacs.

    ……wishing you health and better days–
    Moon 2

  • Nanci Burns
    7 months ago

    I take zero prescription drugs on a daily basis. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, so I have been dealing with this rheumatoid disease since having the measles when I was 6 turned on the stupid gene and started my immune system attacking me. I am now 59. I refuse to take any biologics or DMARDS. I live in Indiana, where the g@##%!n DEA has all the doctors too scared to give anyone pain pills. I have taken descending courses of pred in the past, and will again if necessary. Thankfully it has not been necessary since CBD products became available here. Indiana legalized CBD products almost 2 years before the fed took hemp off the schedule. I have been using cannabis since I was 13, when I found out that I can sleep the night through if I smoke a little before bed. I credit cannabis with slowing the progression of the disease.
    I also modified my diet radically 15 years ago, to increase intake of foods with anti-inflammatory properties and foods with antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. I bought a gravity inversion unit for traction to keep my spine straight. All these things I do have allowed me to remain mobile and keep my pain level down to a low growl (as opposed to the Rheuma-Dragon roaring).
    I offer myself as living proof that people CAN manage this terrible disease mostly without prescriotion POISONS.

  • Lyn Burnstine
    7 months ago

    I have had RA for 64 years. People have always asked me if the winter cold bothers me and I have always answered, No, the heat does–you swell more in the heat. Now, at 86, though, I do have trouble getting very stiff when I go out i the winter, even just to go to the car and back. May be my age. As for prednisone, I have been on 5 mg. for about 40 years and I have never gained weight from it–in fact, am underweight and at my age I know I need to have a reserve of 10 lbs. and have been trying to gain for 6-7 years now. Not trying to make anyone feel bad, just would like to find at least 1 person who doesn’t have a weight problem from it, so I wouldn’t feel like a freak.

  • Louise1024
    7 months ago

    Hi Lyn, I was on 5 mg of prednisone for two years and I lost weight. I was able to taper off in January and so far so good. You are not alone.

  • haven1823
    7 months ago

    I thought I was alone. I live in Kentucky. The spring and summers here are horrible. My flares are more intense during this time. People think I’m crazy that I love the winter. Lol.

  • GreenEyes
    7 months ago

    My Love/Hate relationship with prednisone goes on and on. To avoid “the Devil’s tic-taks” as some RA patient named them, I deny, deny, deny a Flare until the denial turns to panic to see how quickly I can contact my “Rheumy” to get what I call my “pref pack”. Then the relief is so instant, I wonder why I prolong the pain and disability by avoiding the phone call to declare a Flare! The comments listing the instant side effects says it all. After working hard to lose twenty pounds to take some weight off a worn out knee, the moon face is back! The sweet cravings take over my mind and life. Frantic activity like cleaning out my “fashion jewelry” boxes — and hunting missing earrings — may bring a weird satisfaction, but certainly does not benefit swollen painful joints. The Flare cycles seem to come with every change of season, if one can call South Texas weather actual seasons. Spring is About to be Hot. Summer is Really Hot! Fall is Less Hot, and Winter is Seldom Hot, but often warm! But the barometric changes, especially preceeding thunder storms, is amazing, and painful, to experience. Reading the comments of other RAers does verify for me that my pain and varying and constantly changed degrees of disability are real and.not in my head. Today a sister living 600 miles away.asked how I’m doing. To tell her about my day would make me sound crazy!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi Greeneyes. You certainly are not crazy. Many in the community feel that if weather impacts their RA, it is the changes in barometric pressure that are the root cause. In this article our contributor Tamara writes about the impact the changes can have on her plans: Hoping the oncoming Texas heat is bearable this year. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    7 months ago

    The devils tic tac. That is funny. I knwo we have had this discussion in this community before but for me, I feel awful during cold weather and so much better during warm. I I think that makes me RA temperature positive. Or maybe as my wife charges, a wimp.

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