For many people, humidity and lupus just don’t mix. One MyLupusTeam member wrote about dreading showers on humid days because of the effects on her skin. “My skin itches like crazy after I shower when it’s humid out … . I’ve started fearing the shower on humid days,” they said.
Another member said, “I get itchy when I’m hot or sweating. I swear I’m allergic to my sweat. It gets really bad at night. My body itches all over. It’s so frustrating not knowing why.”
Fortunately, there are several treatment options that can help you feel more comfortable in your skin. Here’s how changes in weather, allergies, and lupus skin symptoms leave some members with an unbearable urge to scratch, along with tips you can use to get a better handle on this uncomfortable situation.
Itchy lupus rashes are caused by skin inflammation. According to Cleveland Clinic, in cutaneous lupus — one-tenth of lupus cases — only the skin is affected. However, in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), symptoms can develop throughout the body. Among people with systemic lupus, 65 percent develop skin lupus.
Itching can also be associated with discoid cutaneous lupus, which causes round, scaly skin lesions. These may show up anywhere on the body, but the scalp, face, and ears are most commonly affected.
Additionally, 10 percent of people with lupus develop urticaria (hives), which are raised, itchy skin lesions. Allergic reactions can also cause hives, but when hives don’t go away after 24 hours, they’re more likely associated with lupus itself. Sometimes, hives can be a sign that you’re allergic to medication or have another underlying health issue, so it’s important to see your doctor for further testing.
Scientists believe a combination of hormones, genetics, and environmental factors are responsible for lupus symptoms. Many people with lupus experience photosensitivity (sensitivity to sun exposure and UV light) that leads to skin inflammation and rashes. Because sunny days are often humid as well, it might be easy to mistake humidity as the underlying trigger when sun exposure is to blame.
Humidity has been linked to joint soreness in lupus, but flare-ups can vary significantly from person to person, and symptoms can show up in different ways.
On MyLupusTeam, a member asked, “Does anybody also get extremely itchy from sweating? It feels like something is biting me when this happens.”
Another replied, “I saw a dermatologist because of the itch. It was so bad. It seems to be worse when I get out of the shower. The doctor said the dilation of blood vessels is making the lupus itch worse.”
If your skin is already sensitive from cutaneous lupus, humid conditions may feel particularly uncomfortable. You may come to associate increased itchiness with humidity because the moisture makes your skin symptoms more noticeable. In addition, hot flashes, low-grade fevers, and heat intolerance are common symptoms of lupus and potential comorbidities (co-existing conditions) like thyroid disease. Feeling overheated and sweating excessively is uncomfortable for anyone, let alone someone with an autoimmune disease that affects the skin.
One MyLupusTeam member described their struggles: “I went through menopause over 15 years ago … the minute I do anything that is not sitting, I sweat profusely. I have Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism). I feel it’s not under control.”
Plenty of people experience heat rashes during warm and humid weather, even if they don’t have lupus. Some people develop miliaria, a prickly heat rash, when sweat becomes trapped in their skin through clogged ducts instead of being released onto the skin’s surface. Small itchy blisters can appear, especially in areas where skin rubs against itself and causes friction. Other factors that can contribute to the problem include:
Your health care provider may recommend powder to stay dry and corticosteroid or antibiotic cream as treatment.
Your doctor may recommend a skin biopsy to learn more about your itchy symptoms, especially if you have a rash. This entails removing a small sample of skin for examination under a microscope. Once your doctor identifies a cause, they can prescribe various medications — both topical (applied to the skin) and oral — to help reduce itching and improve your quality of life.
Your doctor may suggest corticosteroids like prednisone to get a lupus flare-up under control. For general lupus management, hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is commonly prescribed. In addition, skin ointments containing steroids can help specific areas affected by itchiness.
Some MyLupusTeam members report treating their symptoms with over-the-counter antihistamine medications. “I take Benadryl every morning, and it’s mostly helped with my itchiness,” said one member.
Make sure to seek medical advice from a health care professional before taking medications and supplements because it’s possible that you’ll have an interaction with another drug. You may also fail to address an underlying problem if you mask it with at-home treatments.
In addition to medical treatment, you may find that lifestyle changes can make a positive difference. These may include:
You can’t always control the temperature or humidity level, but carrying a small fan and drinking ice-cold water may prevent the heat from bothering you as much.
To combat sweating in humid weather, a strong antiperspirant can help you stay dry and more comfortable. You can ask your doctor about prescription antiperspirants if you can’t find what you need at the store.
MyLupusTeam is the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones. On MyLupusTeam, more than 222,000 people with lupus come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories.
Does high humidity make you itchy or trigger lupus flares? Have you noticed worsening skin rashes on certain parts of your body during weather changes? What, if anything, has helped improve your symptoms? Post your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by sharing on MyLupusTeam.