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7 Essentials for Coping with a Psoriasis Flare

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on February 7, 2018Written by Jacquelyn Cafasso on February 7, 2018
coping with flares

Psoriasis flare-ups take a toll on not only your skin, but also your emotional health and overall well-being.

Along with taking your medications or treatments as your doctor prescribed, try these tips to help cope with a flare and get the support you need.

1. Avoid your triggers

Many people with psoriasis can identify one or more triggers that make their condition worse. These triggers vary from person to person.

The most commonly reported triggers include:

  • infections, such as an upper respiratory infection
  • a skin injury, such as a bug bite
  • stress
  • certain foods, including whole milk, gluten, sugar, and fatty foods
  • alcohol
  • excessive sun exposure
  • smoking

Once you’ve identified the cause of your flares, the first step to coping is to avoid that trigger as much as possible.

2. Stick to a skin routine

The itching, redness, and pain that occurs during a psoriasis flare-up can have a major effect on your quality of life. A skin routine focused on soothing your skin can relieve some of your itchiness and help you cope with your symptoms while your medications or treatments do their job.

You’ll need to experiment a bit to see what works best for your skin, but here’s a starting point:

  • Take a warm (not hot) bath and add things like Dead Sea salts, Epsom salt, mineral oil, colloidal oatmeal, or olive oil. Gently pat (not rub) your skin dry when you get out.
  • Moisturize with heavy creams and ointments to help lock water into the skin.
  • Remove flaking with a scale softening (keratolytic) product or an over-the-counter (OTC) lotion containing salicylic acid, lactic acid, or phenol.
  • Take a cold shower instead of a bath.
  • Try an OTC itch cream like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.

You should avoid creams, soaps, and hair products containing fragrance or alcohol since they can dry out your skin.

3. Dress creatively

During a psoriasis flare, you may be worried or embarrassed about the appearance of your skin. If you’re trying to cover up a flare-up, this can be a challenge.

Look for ways to get creative with your outfits. Here are a few tips:

  • Wear scarves, gloves, or turtleneck tops that look great on you but help cover your patches.
  • Dress in lighter colors (light gray, cream, white) if your skin is flaking.
  • Try different colors of opaque tights under skirts and dresses.
  • Wear a light and airy maxi dress.
  • Avoid fabrics that make you itchy or irritate your skin.

4. Reach out for support

Like most chronic illnesses, psoriasis can make you feel depressed, lonely, anxious, or scared, among a million other emotions.

Sometimes friends and family can’t relate to your situation. They might even feel uncomfortable talking about it and try to change the subject. It’s incredibly important that you have others to talk to who understand what you’re going through.

A support group is a great way to cope with the stress and anxiety of having a chronic condition.

Examples include:

5. Manage stress

Psoriasis flare-ups can be stressful, and stress is often a trigger for flares. This can lead to a vicious cycle that’s incredibly difficult to break.

The exact link between stress and psoriasis flare-ups isn’t completely understood, but it’s thought to be related to stress hormones and their effect on your immune system.

Try out different ways to reduce stress, such as:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • hypnosis
  • getting a massage
  • counseling or therapy
  • deep breathing exercises
  • writing in a journal
  • exercising
  • nature hikes
  • talking to family or friends
  • joining a support group for people with psoriasis
  • aromatherapy (but be cautious as certain fragrances may cause an allergic or asthmatic reaction)

6. Treat depression

Researchers have recently learned that people with psoriasis experience higher rates of depression.

If you feel like your life is falling apart and you have feelings of hopelessness and despair, seek professional help. Consider searching for a therapist who has experience treating people with psoriasis or similar conditions.

In some cases, prescription antidepressant medications may be necessary to help you cope.

7. Let your doctor know

It’s important to let you doctor know when you have a psoriasis flare. If your psoriasis is getting worse or your symptoms are greatly affecting your quality of life, your doctor might want to put you on a different treatment. The next-in-line treatment could end up being one that works for you.

The bottom line

For the millions of people who live with psoriasis, coping with a flare-up is no easy task. Working closely with your doctor, finding ways to manage stress, taking good care of your skin, avoiding your own personal triggers, and keeping a positive attitude can get you through.

As you search for a medication that works for you, it’s important to also connect with others who know what the struggle is like so you can overcome these obstacles together.

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