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Psoriasis in Fall and Winter: 7 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Could strep throat and other winter illnesses affect my psoriasis?

If you suffer from psoriasis, an infection by bacteria and viruses can cause symptoms to flare. A strep infection, specifically, is a known trigger for guttate psoriasis, a form of the disease that causes red, droplet-shaped lesions to develop on the abdomen, back, arms, and legs.

Although researchers don’t know the exact cause of psoriasis, the immune system seems to play a key role in its development. Germs, illness, viruses or bacteria – anything that temporarily enhances your immune system -- may cause your symptoms to worsen. Even something as simple as a common cold or respiratory virus may trigger a psoriasis flare. Strive to keep yourself healthy by eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical activity, and keeping stress levels under control.

Can I get a flu shot if I have psoriasis?

Since getting the flu may temporarily alter your immune system and could worsen your psoriasis, you’re wise to think about getting immunized against the flu.

There should be no problem getting a flu shot during an active psoriasis flare -- just make sure the flu vaccine you receive does not contain any live virus.  Due to a risk of complication from some vaccinations for people with psoriasis, always check with a health care provider before getting your flu vaccine. 

What types of clothing are best for people with psoriasis in cold weather?

Wool sweaters are synonymous with winter for some people with psoriasis, but the itchiness of the fabric may make your already irritated skin feel worse.

Consider dressing in layers made from natural plant fibers, such as cotton, to keep you warm and comfortable. If you suffer from scalp psoriasis and find that flaking is a problem, choose lighter-colored clothes to hide dandruff.

Why does it seem like my psoriasis gets worse around the holidays?

Stress is a known psoriasis trigger, and some people find the holidays very stressful.

Try to counter the stress with relaxation techniques to keep yourself calm. You might try yoga, meditation, biofeedback, or even a long walk.  

Holidays are also a time of heavy drinking, which could possibly worsen psoriasis symptoms.  And then, of course, there are the many social gatherings indoors with people who may have colds or other viruses, which could worsen your lesions if you get sick. 

To make your holiday season an enjoyable one, make every attempt to enjoy the time spent with family and friends and follow as healthy a lifestyle as possible.  It’s the best present you can give to yourself.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on June 15, 2012

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