One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Weeding a garden can put health at risk...

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!

Without a single dandelion...

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!

Comments on: "Lupus and weeding your garden…" (6)

  1. […] It’s important to enjoy the kind of exercise you do, as this means you are more likely to do it regularly. Gardening can provide a form of gentle exercise you can undertake for as long as you feel comfortable doing it. Make sure you aren’t putting any strain on any particular joints or muscles, and wear protection from the sun on a hot day. […]

  2. […] Gardening can be fantastic for Lupus but there are many aspects of the condition to be taken into account. With severe joint pain, it is important to limit how much exercise is taken and to work in short bursts. With the potential for flare ups from mold or chemicals, it is vital to wear gloves, and on occasion, a dust mask. Perhaps most importantly if you are going to garden with Lupus, you’ll need to invest in a good, wide-brimmed hat. Direct exposure to sunlight can be very harmful for many people with Lupus so it is a good idea to wear longer trousers (or skirt) and a long-sleeved top. Like all exercise, it is a good idea to start with something small, a basic gardening technique. Early in the season, those with Lupus can gauge their reactions to gardening by preparing planters. An outdoor table can be utilized along with toilet paper rolls and a mixture of compost, soil and used coffee grounds. Simply get a tray, stand the empty toilet roll up on it, fill to ¾ with your mixture, plant a seed, top up and then water. This simple first step will help you discover if you need to wear a mask or not, if your protection from the sun is sufficient, or if there are any other issues to be aware of. […]

  3. diymatters said:

    One simple way to avoid weeding is to use weed fabric.

  4. John997 said:

    Very nice site!

  5. Lupus Adventurer said:

    TM: Don’t you just miss being able to sit in the sun and soak up it’s warmth on your shoulders? It’s the one thing about being outside I miss and long for the most. LA

  6. This is SO true! Shielding from the sun is always one that most of us lupus patients forget until we’re reaping the consequences! I’m flaring today as a reminder myself ^_^

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