Tingley Sunshine

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny proclamation that spring has finally arrived.  It was great to spend time out in my sadly neglected garden.  The rhubarb is growing like crazy, and the herbs are looking good.

There’s a peculiar thing about working outside in the nice, warm sunshine, though.  For two years now, whenever I’ve gone out in the sun, my skin starts tingling.  I’d forgotten about it over the course of our dreary winter weather.  Now that spring is here, the tingling is back.

I first noticed this strange sensation the spring after I was first introduced to the world of autoimmunity.  We took the kids on a field trip to Pearl Harbor and immensely enjoyed the abundant sunshine.  It was very weird to feel like I was being hit with raindrops, only to look around and find not a cloud in the sky.  The more time we spent outdoors (not hard to do in Hawaii), the more my skin tingled – eventually lasting even after we’d gone indoors (24 hours a day).  I decided it was probably the “sun sensitivity” that’s a possible side effect of the plaquenil I was taking, and responded by slathering on even more sunscreen and buying a hat.  When we returned home (to snow) and the tingling went away, I took it as confirmation of my hcq-side-effect theory.

I had no more tingling until summertime that year, and made it through the summer pretty well by putting my Hawaii hat to good use and going through liberal quantities of SPF50 sunscreen.  Autumn rolled around again with its grey skies, and the tingling departed.  I forgot all about that bizarre sensation until last spring, and finally mentioned it to my PCP, who said, “Yes, plaquenil can cause sun sensitivity,” but also told me that I should mention it to the new rheumatologist he was sending me to see.

Rheumy said, “No.  That’s not normal,” but in the myriad tests run, I think we both forgot about it.

It’s been a cold, rainy, icky winter, and I’ve not had any trouble this year until now.  At seventy-four degrees and not a cloud in the sky, I received my springtime reminder.

I know this doesn’t make any sense at all, but it’s sorta like when your foot falls asleep in a weird pins-and-needles kind of thing.  Well, except that with feet (or hands), it’s the entire foot (or hand).  With this, it’s just the surface skin of my arms and face, not deep down inside the muscle.  If I wear shorts, my legs feel all prickly, too.  Like I said, it doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe this is something I should mention to my rheumy (who I don’t see again until June – woohoo!).  In the meantime, I’m thinking of shopping for a few more hats.  I probably shouldn’t go outside without one, and the two I have aren’t always appropriate.  I can wear long-sleeved light-weight cotton shirts to keep my arms covered.  The real trick is going to be covering my hands.  Gardening gloves will suffice for yard work, but the tingling seems a lot worse this year, and I’m going to need to keep my hands covered – even in the car.  This was made clear on Sunday.  I don’t do anything formal enough to wear dress gloves, but gardening gloves are often inappropriate, and my winter gloves are too warm.  I’m stumped.

Despite the tingling, I love being outdoors, contemplating my gardens.  I’ve been slowly digging up the beautiful high-maintenance landscaping that came with our house, and replacing it with low-maintenance plants that are useful.  The front of the house is almost done:

On the left, there’s about five feet of mint.  Then two purple sage plants that spread out much farther than anticipated and got all leggy, instead of being nice and compact.  The next plant (about in the center of the photo) is compact, well-behaved pineapple sage.  There are some tiny strawberry plants in front of the rhubarb (they will eventually be moved somewhere else, but I needed a nursery bed for them, and this spot was available).  Behind the rhubarb is a rosemary plant (cool-looking purple flowers), and two different kinds of thyme; you can see those better in the photo at the top.

These are my kind of plants.  I put them in the dirt and ignore them except for when I want to harvest a little bit.  The sage and rosemary stay green all year.  The thyme is supposed to stay green all year.

Now if only I could find an herb to stop the tingling!