Anyone living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) knows that many different environmental factors can influence their disease – summertime included. Here are some tips from the gastroenterology team at CHOC Children’s for navigating the season.
- Vitamin D is so important for IBD. Many people living with IBD have low vitamin D levels, so the summer months can help with topping up on the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D has the potential to improve disease progression through anti-inflammatory immune responses. Enjoy the warmth of the sun, but don’t forget your sunscreen! Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. Wear protective clothing and don’t forget your sunglasses and hat!
- Talk to your doctor about photosensitivity. It is important to talk to your doctor to find out if any of the medications you are on to treat Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis could cause sensitivity and skin inflammation.
- Take a good look at your skin and schedule an annual skin check. IBD or IBD treatment may affect your skin. Examine your skin head-to-toe once a month for new spots or growths. Some people may experience tender bumps, sores or rashes. Make sure you schedule an annual skin check with your primary care provider or a dermatologist.
- Hydrate! As the days get hotter, risk for dehydration increases. People with IBD are at greater risk for dehydration due to water loss from diarrhea or vomiting. Remember to carry around a water bottle wherever you go. Recommended water intake for pre-teens and teens who weigh more than 100 pounds is 64 ounces per day, or about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day unless you have a preexisting condition that limits the amount of water you can intake, such as some people with heart and kidney conditions. Drink more with physical activity or long periods of being in the sun. If plain water is getting boring, add in fruits and veggies, unless of course you are on a low-fiber diet!
- Monitor your screen time. While it’s tempting to watch your favorite shows and browse social media to fill up your free time, keep screen time to less than two hours per day. Whether you are feeling good or bad, physical activity helps both the brain and body, so try to incorporate 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic activity, where you get your heart rate up and break a sweat. Exercise may have anti-inflammatory effects. Physical activity is also linked to better bone health and mental wellness in children with IBD.
- Practice COVID-19 precautions. People diagnosed with IBD may be considered immunosuppressed, which means they may be at higher risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19. To help prevent this, avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing, avoid having close contact with people who are sick, and wash your hands frequently. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Be safe and have fun. Get back to nature, swim and explore the outdoors. Remember to pack a face mask along with a water bottle and practice social distancing when you pick a trail or spot to swim. Being active benefits mental wellness and overall wellbeing.
- Get your sleep. Amid all the fun, make sleep a priority. A lack of sleep can delay healing which worsens IBD symptoms. Develop a relaxing routine, read a book, take a bath, shut off electronics and make it a goal to sleep at least eight hours per night.
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