The warm weather months have finally arrived! The spring and summer seasons offer many wonderful opportunities for outdoor adventures and celebrations. But for individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), there are some unique challenges that can arise when heading outside and enjoying this time of year.
Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy:
- Enjoy the warm days of Spring and Summer. We all love warm, sunny days and it's important for patients with IBD to get the right balance of sunshine, as it is a valuable source of Vitamin D. This vitamin is important for normal bone health and if you've been on certain medications, especially steroids, you may be at extra risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. Vitamin D can help maintain normal, healthy bones.
- But don't overdo it. Too much sun can be an issue as well. If you are on immunomodulators (azathioprine or 6- mercaptopurine) or on a biologic, you may be at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Some of these medications may also cause you to be more sensitive to the sun, increasing your chance of sunburn (as well as your risk of skin cancer). Try to avoid the sun from 11 am to 3pm, when the rays may be the most intense. It's also important to wear enough sunscreen (apply at least one ounce) and a hat - yes, even on cloudy days! And, if you are on these types of medications, make sure you see a dermatologist once a year.
- Protect your eyes. The sun may also increase the risk of cataracts. If you take steroids, this may further increase your risk. Be sure to wear those shades when stepping outside!
- It's BBQ time! Barbeques can be fun events, but there are several precautions that someone with IBD should take (especially if you are on immunosuppressants). Avoid foods that have been sitting out for more than 2 hours (one hour if the temperature is over 90 degrees). And all fruits and vegetables should be carefully washed. Patients with IBD may be at higher risk for some infections - so make sure foods are properly prepared. Bring along hand sanitizers to stay safe from bacteria.
- Celebrate responsibly. It's nice to be able to have a drink once in a while. But, check with your doctor to see if it is safe. There are some medications (such as metronidazole) that can interact with alcohol. You cannot drink while on this kind of medication, as you could develop severe nausea and possibly vomiting.
So, with a few precautions, I hope all of you stay safe and enjoy the nice warm days of summer!