Living with Chronic: 12 Tips for Enjoying the Summer

Summer just got started!  

Does the summer present opportunities for fun that can be challenging? You bet it does. But there's no reason to give up on having some fun times this summer season. Here are a few tips to boost your summer fun.


Going to a cook-out

Eat the fruit!  

Many berries are in season this time of year, so remember to eat plenty of these sweet nuggets, which are full of antioxidants.  Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – all are high in antioxidants, which help fight joint inflammation. So enjoy some berries, on your plate or in your glass of ice water or lemonade.


Consider grilling some veggies

Veggies are power foods and grilled or roasted ones are quite tasty! Healthy eating could include some roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potato, onions, or some asparagus. Grilled vegetables are yummy and quite healthy.  Experiment!


Bring your own straw. Often AI (autoimmune) people and those with RA don’t think about being at someone’s house and having to pick up/put down the drinking glasses. While I have the perfect setup for my hands at my house, size and weight of drinking glasses is likely a non-issue for the normal person’s kitchen. So don't get stuck in the awkward position of glasses that are too heavy and not wanting to ask for something different. Solution - ?? Bring your own straw. In fact, keep straws in your purse or car. Get the kind you can bend so you don’t have to lift the glass at all. Bam!  Problem solved.


Relaxing on the beach

Sun and your medications. Applying sunscreen is important for everyone, but can be critical for RA and other AI patients who often take meds that can cause photosensitivity. Medications like methotrexate and Plaquenil can cause severe skin reactions when you’re in the sun, so remember to think about how the sun and your medications get along.

Put a sunblock reminder in your phone. Always forgetting to reapply sunblock? Put a reminder in your phone – or several reminders! If you’re with a friend or family member, ask them if they’d put a back-up reminder in their phone for 5-10 minutes later than yours. This will cover times when you’re in the water or not right beside your phone when the “ding” goes off. Always good to have a back-up plan.

Use trekking poles in the sand. These are lightweight and have pointy ends for digging in to the sand. Long walks on the beach? No problem. Get a lightweight pair to prevent wrist or arm fatigue or strain.

Add EO’s to your suntan lotion. Essential Oils (EO’s) can be a great addition to your treatment regimen. Mix some menthol EO, from peppermint, to your lotion for topical pain relief and a welcome cooling sensation. A few drops of oil of camphor has been found to relieve pain in joints, ligaments and muscles. Always check with your doctor first, but EO’s have been found to be safe adjunctive therapy and quite effective in many cases.

Long car rides

Turn on the radio.  Cleveland Clinic did a study of folks with RA, OA and disk problems and found that listening to music reduced pain by over 20%. That's amazing! So if you’re riding in the car, turn on the radio! Better yet, make a song list of your favorites and keep it going. Someone else wanting to pick the station? No problem. The study found that the type of music didn’t really matter. Just that music was playing. Now that's pretty easy!

Push your seat back. Even when the extra space isn’t needed, push your seat back to gain as much leg room as possible. This will allow you to stretch your legs out ever 15-20 minutes to prevent stiffness, pain, etc. You can push your feet out and do some simple back stretches, as well. Even arm exercises if there’s enough room.

Prevent getting cold in the car 

Air conditioner just right for someone else, but you’re freezing?  Keep a seat warmer in the trunk and plug it in to the cigarette lighter for some warmth. Or stash a blanket in the back seat. Stuff a pair of fingerless gloves in the glove compartment to keep hands warm if the AC is on. I carry one of the hub’s flannel shirts in the car at all times. Have used it numerous times.

Hanging out by the pool or hot tub

Check accessibility. Make sure there are steps or a ramp for getting in/out of the pool or hot tub. Trying to decide on hotel choices? Call ahead and see if they have easy accessibility for their pool or jacuzzi.

Walk in the pool/water. You don’t have to swim to enjoy the cool water. Walking back and forth across a pool feels great gives you an aerobic and muscle-building workout. Because of the water’s buoyancy, there’s less stress on those joints. 


Other reminders... stay hydrated, break up time in the hot sun with breaks indoors, if swelling and pain increase or become an issue, address it without delay by taking a cool or tepid bath, getting something cool to drink, heading indoors, and always, get lots and lots of rest. 

Hope these tips are helpful as you enjoy your summer vacations and time outdoors. I've used several of them and they really make a difference! Blueberries in my cold ice water - with a straw! - tastes great.

I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to share some tips you use for a fun, successful summer. 


Here's to a great summer, everyone!

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