Autumn is here! It's that lovely time of year full of beautiful foliage, warm drinks and for some cosy fashions. It's also when it begins to get quite chilly, which can be a real problem for a person with joint problems. Those with autoimmune arthritis definitely can feel the effects of the changing weather more than others. Whether it's stiffness from the cold or trouble keeping warm, I know I can relate. So, I've put together a bit of help for the fall.
1. It may be very cold at night, and our human reaction is to curl up our body whilst we sleep to keep warm. This position may cause a lot of pain in the morning (I would know from experience). Try to layer your bed so you won't be tempted to sleep curled up: it's better to sleep as of standing up, or legs bent loosely. You'll stay warm and mornings may not be as stiff and painful.
2. Drink plenty of warm fluids! It will help your body keep warm, will soothe you and the hot cup might help sore hands. Try different teas, since tea is very good for you. My personal favourite is black with orange zest (it makes it sweet, but not too sweet).
3. This is the time of year colds spread rapidly. In my school, almost everyone is or has been sick or just not felt right: We're quite a mess, especially in the mornings. Consider getting a flu shot, especially if you're taking immunosuppressants- any cold you get will take twice as long to fight or may get worse, and the flu would be horrible to catch with a low immune system. Wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your mouth, eyes and nose. Carry around tissues in your pocket, not only is it good in case your get a runny nose (like me) but if someone around you is coughing without covering their mouth, you could hold the tissue to your mouth and nose as a precaution.
4. Fuzzy socks. Honestly, wear fuzzy socks whenever you can. They're stretchy, easy to use with sore hands, gentle on sore feet and keep them warm and cosy. I tuck my pyjama bottoms into my socks at night so my ankles don't get cold.
5. Stretch! Don't stop exercising because of the cold! Bring outdoor exercises in, if the weather is too much to handle. It may help to exercise in warmth anyway since your joints will be less stiff than in cold. I've been doing volunteer work a lot recently, and it's really helped me keep in shape and exercise indoors (a lot of walking and bending).
6. You may have to take more NSAIDs or other pain medication as the weather changes. I know I need to. Keep track of all your meds and take them regularly. Even if you feel good, take your meds: It'll be easier to take them now and feel good later, than feel bad later and have to wait for your medicines to work (if you even have access to them!).
7. Wake up gradually. For me, I can't wake up and go (unless I have to or wake by myself). So I set my alarm clock to go off 25 minutes before I need to get up. It goes off ten minutes apart. The last five minutes I try to stay awake and just think about the day ahead and relax so my body isn't as achy. At the end of the five minutes, my radio goes off and I start the day with music whilst getting dressed. It may work for you, especially if you find it hard to get up in the morning.
8. Be careful! I've been stiffer lately, and I've been losing my balance and footing as a result. I imagine I'm not alone in this. Please be very careful!
9. Students, try not to overload yourself with books. Ask teachers if you can have a book for home and one for the classroom. Don't take anything that isn't necessary. And I know it's not always fashionable, but bags with thick straps will save your shoulders- very wise advance from my rheumatologist.
Fall is a beautiful time! Enjoy the traditions of the season, it only comes one a year after all! Happy Autumn!