Image of rooftop deck in the summer

For many, especially Seattleites used to persistent rain and overcast skies, the summer might just be the best time of the year. Summertime means access to rooftop bars, the opportunity to lounge by Lakes Union and Washington and loads of nearby hikes to take advantage of—not to mention time for a beach vacation.

But for people living with certain autoimmune diseases, the summer can be an extremely unpleasant time of year. Spikes in temperatures and intense sun pose serious risks to people with diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus and scleroderma. And if you follow a certain schedule to manage your symptoms, changes in daily routines can be difficult.

We’ve compiled some of our best tips to stay cool, protected and prepared on your next summer adventure. We know that summer can be challenging for those of you who have an autoimmune disease—but it’s still possible to take advantage of the summer’s best offerings.

Picture of umbrella

Beat the Heat

Our best tips for avoiding extreme external—and internal—temperatures.

  • Overheating on a hot day can cause both MS and lupus patients to experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms. Consider staying inside during the hottest hours of the day, often in the late afternoon.
  • If you’re on the go and it’s sweltering outside, bring along gel ice packs and spritzer bottles filled with ice water to keep cool.
  • Planning a road trip or a day trip with your family? Schedule pit stops with air conditioning where you can cool off.
  • For information about heavy-duty cooling equipment (think cooling vests and patio misting systems), check out the National MS Society’s 2018 “Cooling equipment information and national vendors” list. The list even has promo codes to use for discounts and free shipping!

Picture of fan

Fun out of the Sun

Sun protection is a no-brainer for everyone—but it’s especially important for those living with autoimmune diseases.

  • If you’re out in the sun, avoid damage by covering up. Some autoimmune diseases like lupus and scleroderma cause photosensitivity, or a sensitivity to sunlight. Photosensitivity can also be a side effect of antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication, commonly taken by rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  • You can keep cool while wearing protective clothing—cotton, linen, rayon and cambric are some of the best fabrics for hot summer days.
  • If you have extreme photosensitivity, you may want to invest in sun protection clothing, which actually blocks UVA and UVB rays.  
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours—and every 40 to 80 minutes if you’re in and out of the water. A nickel-sized dollop for the face and a shot-glass (two tablespoons) portion for exposed parts of your body should do the trick.
  • Pro-tip: keep your sunscreen stored in the fridge to cool yourself down every time you reapply. 
  • If you love strolling around weekend farmer’s markets or watching outdoor sports games from the bleachers, consider using a parasol for additional sun cover.
  • Place a transparent, UVA-resistant film on your car’s windows to keep out harmful rays while you’re logging hours behind the wheel on your next road trip.

Picture of suitcase

Out and About

The name of the game when getting ready for vacations or other adventures is: planning, planning, planning!

  • While you’re printing out your itinerary, make sure to print out paper copies of your medical information to keep in your wallet, just in case.
  • Excited about exploring a new city or country on vacation? Plan activities for good and bad pain days. That way, you can anticipate a fun time even when you aren’t feeling your best.
  • Do you have type 1 diabetes and anticipate big summer schedule changes in your daily routine? Plan to monitor how different levels of activity affect your blood glucose. For all those fun summer activities like challenging hikes or a day in the pool, make sure to pack enough snacks.
  • When booking hotels or Airbnbs, make sure to look up locations of the nearest emergency rooms, urgent care centers and hospitals.


Whether you, a friend, or a loved one is living with an autoimmune disease, this list will help you stay comfortable and enjoy the summertime.

If you have your own tips and tricks for managing your symptoms during the summer months, let us know in the comments below!




The information provided in this post should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always check in with your doctor before heading out on a trip to make sure you’re following the right precautions and planning according to your health needs.

Living With A Disease

August 6, 2018

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