6 Ways to Make Travel Easier if You Have Severe Eczema
Severe eczema doesn’t take a vacation — even when you’re traveling. Find out how to prepare for a trip and make your journey easier.
Even for the most seasoned travelers, going on a trip can be stressful: Flights can get cancelled or delayed, you may have to lug around heavy suitcases, and the weather can throw a wrench into your plans. And that’s without accounting for any chronic health conditions you have to manage in the midst of it all.
One such health issue that can interfere with your carefully laid plans: severe eczema, an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy skin; rashes; skin discoloration; and patches of skin that can ooze and crust over, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA).
The Challenge of Severe Eczema While Traveling
Traveling can present some issues that are especially tough for people with eczema.
First, depending on where you’re going, there’s the potential for a drastic change in climate, which can aggravate your skin and trigger a flare. That doesn’t just apply if you’re going to a hot, humid climate but to a cold, dry one as well.
“If you’re traveling somewhere cold, or somewhere like the desert where there’s not a lot of ambient humidity, your skin can dry out and feel different,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, FAAD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology in New York City.
In addition, if you’re used to a more temperate climate and go to a very hot and humid one, that can trigger eczema symptoms, including rashes, according to the NEA.
If you have severe eczema, including atopic dermatitis, you may also be susceptible to environmental or food allergies that can appear while traveling, particularly if you’re not familiar with the destination and its food culture.
“There are different allergies in different areas,” says Mohammad Jafferany, MD, executive director of the Association for Psychoneurocutaneous Medicine of North America (APMNA) and a psychodermatologist in Saginaw, Michigan. “That can include the pollen in the air, allergies from going to a forest or going through a jungle, and food allergies to unfamiliar food and drinks.”
Finally, eczema can also be triggered by emotional stress — which can go hand in hand with travel. Think: flight cancellations, missing connecting flights, lost luggage, and other travel hazards.
How to Make Travel Easier With Eczema
To make your journey as smooth as possible, it’s important to know your own eczema triggers and prepare as much as you can to minimize them before you even leave the house. Here are some tips:
- Bring all of your eczema medications. Even if you’re flying, you can bring your prescription medications with you. “Always make sure that you either have a supply of your medications available in the other area where you’re traveling to or that you have them with you,” says Dr. Jafferany. “Medications are usually allowed in the airport if you have a prescription available to show the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] employees.” If you’re going on a shorter trip, you can also opt to put your creams and lotions in a travel-safe container of three ounces or less. If you’re traveling by other means besides an airplane, you should be fine to bring your medications as they are, although it’s always best to check ahead of time.
- Skip the hotel soaps and lotions. Harsh creams and soaps can aggravate eczema, so unless a product is labeled for sensitive skin, it’s probably best to opt for your own tried-and-true cleansing and moisturizing items. Although you may not be able to bring them with you in your carry-on bag, you should make sure to pack the moisturizers you use when at home so that you have access to them on your trip. Moisturizers are an important part of your treatment plan with eczema, along with your medications, experts say.
- Limit your time in the water. Going for a swim? The local water may be harder or softer than that at home, which can irritate your skin, says Dr. Friedler. Rinse off after you get out of the water and remember to moisturize your skin after drying off. In addition, take short, lukewarm showers as you would at home. If chlorine-rich pool water triggers your eczema, minimize your time in the pool, too, she says. “If your skin is healthy, you might be able to tolerate a pool, but you have to really listen to your body. What works for one person is not necessarily going to work for the next person,” she adds.
- Keep your skin dry, but humid enough. “If you’re in a really hot climate, wear cotton clothes that are loose and light colors — fabrics that’ll will wick away sweat,” says Friedler. If you’re going to a dry climate, consider bringing a humidifier with you, or call ahead to ask your hotel if they have one you can use. The goal is to keep skin moisturized enough to avoid triggering your eczema while minimizing exposure to sweat and potentially harmful water.
- Plan ahead for food and drink allergies. If your eczema is triggered by food or drink allergies, research the options at your destination ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to bring some of your own food and drinks in case you need them, says Jafferany.
- Take your time. Remember to give yourself plenty of time to get to your mode of transportation and go through security checks. Research your destination ahead of time so you’ll know what to expect, the NEA advises. Plan some activities, but also try to manage your expectations if things go differently — travel is an adventure in itself. “Traveling itself is a huge stress for many people, from anticipating the travel to actually going through the trip,” says Jafferany.