Stay Hydrated When UC Symptoms Flare
Ulcerative colitis can make it hard for your large intestine to absorb water and salts -- putting you at risk for dehydration. Diarrhea caused by flares can also increase your risk. As a rule, drink enough water and other fluids to avoid thirst. Drinking an electrolyte replacement fluid may help if you have diarrhea. Dizziness, weakness, or no urine for 12 hours are signs you should call 911.
Soothe Skin Irritation, Pain Safely
Frequent diarrhea can irritate the skin. To relieve anal irritation, try moist towelettes for wiping and apply an ointment, such as a vitamin A and D cream, afterward. Need more relief? Soaking in a salt water bath may help soreness. For general pain, avoid taking NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen. They can trigger ulcerative colitis flares and cause complications. Try acetaminophen instead.
Eat Bland, Cooked Foods
A flare can zap your appetite but you need nutrients. Find a few go-to foods you can handle. Bland foods often work. But steer clear of fatty, greasy items. Raw fruits and veggies can also be irritating. Peeling and cooking them can help but some people still find them bothersome. In general, try eating frequent, small meals to stay nourished. Losing weight? Your doctor may recommend meal replacement drinks.
Plan Ahead, Locate Bathrooms
Flares can make you have to use the bathroom now. Knowing where bathrooms are can help put you at ease. Also try packing an emergency kit. Having baby wipes, toilet paper, ointment, underwear and liners, deodorizer, and extra pants handy can help you feel prepared and confident about venturing out.
Call Your Doctor About Medication
A flare may mean it’s time to switch your medication or dose. For flares, suppositories and enemas may be prescribed. Corticosteroids and 5-ASA drugs are used to quickly control ulcerative colitis inflammation during flares. For maintenance therapy, 5-ASAs and immune suppressive drugs, such as azathioprine, 6-MP, or methotrexate may be used. For moderate or severe UC, some doctors prescribe biologics.
Make Medications Easier to Take
If you're having a hard time taking pills, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Your medication may be able to be made in liquid form at the pharmacy. If your medicine comes in capsules, ask if it's safe to open them and mix the medicine with apple sauce, peanut butter, or other foods.
Antidiarrheal Medications for UC
Have diarrhea from a mild flare? Antidiarrheal medications may help. They're available over the counter -- such as bismuth subsalicylate, or Loperamide -- or by prescription. Don't take antidiarrheal medications, however, without first talking with your doctor or if you have a fever or blood in your stool. This can cause serious complications.
Seek Support,Tell Others About UC
Ulcerative colitis can be uncomfortable to talk about. But if you need help, reach out. Let others -- family, friends, co-workers, your boss -- know how UC affects you. It may help them have a better understanding when flares do happen. Plus, it can be a relief for you to have people to turn to when you need a hand.
Lessen Stress to Calm Flares
Although stress doesn't cause UC, stress makes symptoms and flares worse for some people. If stress affects you, try meditation, breathing exercises, or getting a massage. Still can't shake stress? A professional may be able to help you learn relaxation through biofeedback, hypnotherapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy. Practicing yoga, tai chi, or low-impact exercise like walking can also help release stress.
Take Medication as Prescribed
Don't double up on doses of medication if you're flaring. Although you may feel desperate for relief, changing your medication routine can trigger or worsen flares. Take medicines consistently. That goes for when you're feeling good and may be tempted to skip doses, too.
UC Flares and Antibiotics
Antibiotics can trigger flares. If your ulcerative colitis flares while taking them, let your doctor know. One theory is that antibiotics may cause issues because they kill good bacteria in your gut that helps with digestion. Some doctors recommend trying probiotics, or friendly bacteria. Probiotics can be found in yogurt and other forms, if you're lactose intolerant.
Complication Warning Signs
Some flare symptoms can signal a complication. Seek immediate medical help if you have any of the following: a fever over 101F, no bowel movements, severe abdominal pain, anal pus drainage, constant diarrhea, blood in almost all stools, or blood clots. Also seek help if you feel like you're going to faint, are repeatedly vomiting, or are severely dehydrated.
Go Easy on Alcohol
Alcohol and ulcerative colitis flares can be linked. Although you don’t have to avoid alcohol completely because of ulcerative colitis, you may want to skip it when you're flaring. It can aggravate inflammation and ulcers. In general, limit beer, wine, and liquor to avoid triggering alcohol-related flares. Opt for decaf tea instead.
Try Low-Intensity Exercise
If you're feeling up to it, low-intensity exercise may help reduce stress, prevent diarrhea, and aid digestion. Even three, 30-minute walks a week can help. Exercise can also increase bone strength. This is important because inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis can increase the risk of osteoporosis.