A few minutes of sun are generally supposed to be good for anyone, but with lupus, even simple outdoor activities like weeding a garden can put your health at risk. What seemed to be just an insignificant few minutes in the late-day sun yesterday triggered a prominent red malar lupus rash across the bridge of my nose and cheeks today.
My husband and I thought we would successfully dodge intense midday Arizona sunlight by waiting until late afternoon to start cleaning up the weeds in our back yard. We briefly discussed that a few minutes in late day sun should be okay, since it was winter when the light rays are longer, and since it was after the hours when UV’s damaging effects were strongest, usually between 10:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m.
We were planning for a house full of guests this afternoon after church, coming for dinner and our daughter’s birthday celebration. We wanted the weedy evidence of recent winter rains to be cleaned up, and to spruce up the yard for today.
So, at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon, my husband started the “heavy lifting” using a hula hoe to cut off the roots of some hefty weeds growing throught the crushed rock landscaping. Donning my gardening gloves and long sleeve sweater, my job was to bag the piles of wilting leaves left in the wake of the hoe. Soon, the yard looked much more presentable, without a single dandelion in sight!
The whole operation only took about 30 minutes. About half of the time my work was in the sun, and the rest of the time I spent under the patio cover bagging weeds. By the time we were done, my total sun exposure was about 15 minutes, so I figured it wouldn’t phase me. Not so!
Where did I go wrong? My simple mistake was forgetting to stop and take a minute to go get my sun hat! It seemed it would be too much trouble for just a few minutes to help pick up the yard, so I brushed off the thought. I should have known better!
Even a little sun can trigger a systemic lupus response. When UV light reaches ANA antibodies in a lupus patient’s skin, it can trigger a flare of systemic lupus symptoms, and the increased lupus activity may be undetected until days and weeks later.
In retrospect, I regret the momentary haste and carelessness of failing to cover my face.
As a result, today, I was covering my face. Getting ready for church this morning included applying generous amounts of mineral makeup to cover up my perky new red malar rash!