The 'Sunburn' That Won't Go Away: Summer Tips for Controlling Rosacea

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Summer can be the toughest season for sufferers of rosacea, a widespread facial skin disorder estimated by the National Rosacea Society to affect more than 16 million Americans. Here are tips to minimize flare-ups of signs and symptoms during hot weather.

facial redness from rosacea

The persistent facial redness of rosacea may initially be mistaken for a sunburn that doesn't go away.

Summer poses a particular challenge to people with rosacea because of the many seasonal factors that can aggravate the condition.

What might often be mistaken for a persistent sunburn may actually be rosacea, a widespread facial skin disorder now estimated by the National Rosacea Society (NRS) to affect more than 16 million Americans. Unfortunately, without medical treatment it often grows increasingly more severe and intrusive on daily life.

“Especially during the summer, the initial redness of rosacea can easily be confused with a sunburn that lingers or doesn’t go away,” said Dr. John Wolf, chairman of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s important for anyone who suspects they may have rosacea to see a dermatologist for diagnosis and appropriate medical therapy.”

For most people, rosacea (pronounced roh-ZAY-sha) starts innocently enough, and may at first appear as an inexplicable blush. Suddenly, without warning, a flush comes to their cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. Then just when they start to feel concern, the redness disappears.

Unfortunately, it happens again and again, becoming redder and lasting longer each time. Eventually, visible blood vessels may appear, and burning and stinging are also common.

Without medical therapy, bumps and pimples often develop along with the redness, growing more pervasive over time. In about half of rosacea sufferers, the eyes are also affected, feeling irritated and appearing watery or bloodshot. In severe cases the nose may become enlarged and bulbous from excess tissue.

In a survey of 1,190 rosacea patients conducted by the NRS, 85 percent said their rosacea is affected by changes in seasons. Nearly half said their symptoms are at their worst when hot weather arrives, and 46 percent reported they have to make the most lifestyle adjustments during the summer to reduce the likelihood of a flare-up of symptoms.

“Summer poses a particular challenge to people with rosacea because of the many seasonal factors that can aggravate the condition,” Dr. Wolf said. In addition to medical therapy, here are some steps rosacea sufferers can take to minimize the potential for flare-ups of signs and symptoms:

Protect from the sun: One of the most important things rosacea sufferers can do is to protect their skin from the sun, as sun exposure was named a top trigger for rosacea flare-ups by 81 percent of patients in an NRS survey. Limit direct exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is strongest, and be sure to wear sunscreen. Look for non-chemical sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium dioxide and deliver UVA/UVB protection with an SPF of 30 or higher. A formula designed for sensitive skin, such as a convenient mineral formulation, can help reduce the possibility of irritation. A broad-brimmed hat can provide additional protection.

Take it Easy: Whether you’re attending a festival, playing games outside or enjoying a hike, don’t over-exert yourself. In an NRS survey of rosacea patients, 56 percent cited heavy exercise as a leading way to trigger their rosacea. Stress is also a major trigger, affecting 79 percent, so if you are planning an active holiday, try to take it slow.

Grill with caution: If you’re taking the lead on cooking at a weekend barbecue, be careful to avoid standing for too long or too close to a hot grill. Use a long-handled spatula and tongs so you can stand farther back from the heat, or hand over cooking duties to someone else. To avoid flushing and overheating, chew on ice chips; cool your face with a spray bottle filled with water; or drape a cold, wet towel around your neck.

Garden with care: Gardening can be a peaceful and relaxing way to enjoy the summer if you’re careful to avoid rosacea triggers. Ideally, try to plan your time outside for the morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler and the sun is less severe. If you are going to spend a long time on the lawnmower, consider erecting an umbrella to provide shade. And if you suffer from seasonal airborne allergies, it’s important to take those into account before planning a day of outdoor activities.

Comply with medical therapy: Remember to use your medication as prescribed by your doctor. As always, this will go a long way toward the prevention of potential flare-ups.

About the National Rosacea Society

The National Rosacea Society is the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of the estimated 16 million Americans who suffer from this widespread but poorly understood disorder. Its mission is to raise awareness of rosacea, provide public health information on the disorder and support medical research that may lead to improvements in its management, prevention and potential cure.

Comprehensive information and materials on rosacea are available on the NRS website at http://www.rosacea.org. The NRS may also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for up-to-date information and tips on rosacea. Further information may be obtained by writing the National Rosacea Society, 196 James Street, Barrington, Illinois 60010; via email at rosaceas(at)aol(dot)com; or by calling its toll-free number at 1-888-NO-BLUSH.

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Mary Erhard

Emma Terhaar
@rosaceaorg
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