PsO Healthy: The Flu and You
When the weather begins to get colder this typically marks the beginning of the cold and flu season. You’ve probably heard those sneezes and coughs around you recently and are wondering how you can avoid contracting whatever is being passed around the office, school, your family or while you are out and about.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition which causes a person’s skin to develop a series of small red or pink bumps, which can grow in size and become covered in silvery white scales. The skin can then become more and more inflamed and thickened, until the affected patches of skin form what are called plaques. People develop psoriasis plaques because their overactive immune system causes their body to create new skin cells too quickly. While triggers can be specific to an individual, the flu and cold season may increase one’s risk of a psoriasis flare-up.
How can the flu trigger a psoriasis flare?
When you have an infection, your immune system kicks into gear and is working to fight off the infection. In those with psoriasis, sometimes the immune system goes into overdrive and doesn’t stop at fighting the infection, it overworks and can cause psoriasis to flare. For some people, they had a precipitating event that caused their original onset of psoriasis symptoms. An example of such an infection is strep throat, it has been associated with the onset of psoriasis symptoms in young children. In addition to strep throat, there are other infections that have been known to cause psoriasis flares (especially with guttate psoriasis) including the flu, respiratory infections, and tonsillitis.
Those who are receiving treatment for psoriasis with an immunosuppressant drug, such as biologics, are at a higher risk of developing the flu as the treatment is suppressing the immune system. Sometimes when someone contracts a bad infection, even a bad case of the flu, they may have to go off their biologic treatment.
Since living in a bubble or staying away from everyone isn’t a solution for all of the cold and flu season- here are some ways to stay healthy during this time of year!
Wash those hands
While this seems like simple advice it is (really) important! According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 20 second scrub of the hands is one of the most important steps someone can do to stay healthy! A fun way to make sure you wash your hands long enough is to sing “Happy Birthday,” that will get you to that 20 seconds of washing.
The flu vaccine
Talking with your healthcare provider about getting the flu vaccine is important. Getting immunized for the flu each year can be a key step in preventing the flu. Talking with your healthcare provider about the flu vaccine is important as if you are receiving an immunosuppressant you should only receive an inactive flu vaccine. This would mean receiving the flu shot and not the spray. The live flu vaccine may be too strong for the immune system to handle while on immunosuppressants. may not cause a psoriasis flare, but the live viruses might be too strong for your immune system and could make you ill.
Other ways to stay healthy
- Get a good night’s rest: Sleep is an important way to let the body reset.
- Eat well: Eating a balanced diet can help supply the body with much-needed nutrients to keep it functioning at its best.
- Try a multivitamin: Talk to your healthcare provider to see if taking a supplement might be a helpful addition to your treatment plan.
- Avoid others who are ill: While this isn’t always possible when you can avoid getting into close contact with those who are already sick. If it is unavoidable, make sure to wash your hands often.