When the cooler, less humid air hits, it also means that cold and flu season is upon us. It’s important for anyone to take precautions to avoid getting sick, but when you have psoriasis, you need to take extra care of yourself to stay well and keep your symptoms under control. If you do get sick, you also run the risk of aggravating your condition and setting off a flare-up.
Living with an autoimmune disease
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system is in overdrive, attacking otherwise healthy cells and tissue. This type of hyperactivity in the immune system can make people with psoriasis more prone to illness, especially during flu season.
Also, immunosuppressing drugs used to treat psoriasis can make you more susceptible to getting sick because they weaken your immune system.
Some general rules to avoid getting sick include:
- eating nutritious meals
- staying hydrated, preferably with plain water
- exercising daily to boost your immune system
- avoiding alcohol
- washing your hands often, especially before eating or taking medications
- avoiding crowds and people who are ill
- wearing a face mask in crowded areas or when caring for someone who is ill
- not sharing objects, such as cups and utensils
- cleaning shared surfaces of your home, including doorknobs and countertops
Consider the following ways you can survive the cold and flu season while also managing your psoriasis.
Keep up with treatment
Staying on track with your psoriasis treatment is your first line of defense against the flu. Immune modulators can help keep your immune system in check while also preventing flare-ups.
Ironically though, immunosuppressing drugs can decrease your body’s immunity to cold and flu viruses. If you feel the flu coming on, your doctor might recommend taking antiviral drugs. In some cases, antibiotics may be used in the early stages of infection to prevent your illness from getting worse.
If you do happen to get the flu and you’re on a biologic, you’ll need to stop taking them until your condition improves. Call your doctor for further instructions. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you can flare up to six weeks after getting sick.
Consider a flu shot
If you have psoriasis, getting the flu vaccine may help keep you healthy and reduce flare-ups.
There’s a catch, though. If you’re taking biologics for your psoriasis, then you need to get the shots that don’t have live vaccines in them. Nasal spray vaccines have live versions of the virus that can interact with immunosuppressing drugs.
If you’re concerned about getting a flu shot or want to learn more, talk to your doctor. They can help you with the pros and cons of vaccines as they relate to your specific condition.
Talk to your doctor about supplements
Eating a balanced diet is important for your skin and overall health. If you have psoriasis, it’s recommended to increase anti-inflammatory foods including fish, plant-based foods, and healthy fats such as olive oil and cut down on food that increase inflammation including red meat, sugar, and processed ingredients.
Other nutrients that help with psoriasis and your immune system include:
- fish oil
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
Talk to your doctor about whether your body is lacking in any of these nutrients and if supplementation can help. Getting the right amount of nutrients can indirectly fight off illness by keeping your immune system in check.
Use a humidifier
Another reason people tend to get sick during the fall and winter months is because of the dry, cold air outside. And, due to central heating units that suck away at humidity, being indoors isn’t much better for you.
Consider getting a humidifier for your house. You can also use a cool-mist vaporizer in your bedroom and workspace. This will not only help keep you from getting sick, but the humidity can also help bring moisture to dry, itchy skin.
Stress is one of the main contributors to inflammation. When you have psoriasis, stress can make your body’s inflammatory response even worse. Not only can this lead to more frequent flare-ups, but increased inflammation can also make you more prone to illness — an unwelcome combination during cold and flu season.
When you’re keeping up with a busy schedule, managing your stress levels can seem impossible. But there are some simple lifestyle adjustments you can make to help, like getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Regular exercise, eating well, and deep-breathing rituals can help, too.
Also, if the load is too heavy, share some of your responsibilities with close friends or family members. There’s no shame in asking for support. Delegating everyday tasks to people you trust can help you get rid of unnecessary stress.
And, try to carve out some time for self-care. Simple activities like reading a book or taking a warm bath can go a long way in reducing your stress levels. The less stressed you are, the better you’ll be able to reduce inflammation and stay healthy during cold and flu season.
Cold and flu season requires special precautions, especially if you have an autoimmune disease like psoriasis. By staying on top of your treatment and investing in a bit of self-care, you’re much more likely to make it through the season without getting sick.
If you happen to get sick though, avoid spreading germs by staying home and taking care to wash your hands often. It’s best for you — and everyone else — to get some rest and to resume your regular activities once you start feeling better.