With rates of skin cancer on the rise, people with eczema need to be prepared to self-screen for any trouble spots that flaring skin may make it hard to identify
Published On: Jul 30, 2021
Last Updated On: Apr 7, 2022
Summer’s in full swing, and many of us are hitting the open road in search of relaxation, fun and adventure. With eczema in the picture, you’ll want to keep skin and allergy problems from derailing your hard-earned getaway.
Here’s the good news: your skin may thank you for a well-planned vacation. “A good road trip can do a lot to relieve the day-to-day stress many people with eczema experience at home,” said Dr. Jon Hanifin, professor of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University. “We often see people get much better while they’re on the road and away from their usual lives.”
However, NEA Ambassador Ashtan Raniga lives with moderate to severe eczema and had a more challenging experience with his road trip. “Plan ahead,” he said. “Call your dermatologist and find out everything you need to know before you hit the road. It took me weeks to get my new prescription filled. And when you’re flaring, it can ruin your trip.”
Wherever you’re headed, you should know as much about your destination as possible. Be sure to research the route you plan on taking as well. Ashtan’s trip took him from a dry hot climate in Los Angeles into the more humid marine climate of Monterey, California. “Look at the environment where you’re going,” Ashtan said. “Are the trees different? Is there pollen? Are there thunderstorms and humidity?” Ashtan mentioned that driving early in the morning helped him avoid some of the hotter parts of the day while driving. “Anything can cause a flare,” he said. “Dust mites, different types of grass, flowers, pollen. Just do as much research as possible.”
It only takes a few seconds, but a quick check on the weather will help you prepare the right type of clothing, shoes and any other gear you’ll need to stay comfortable along the way.
If you live with eczema, you know what it is: your “special stuff” that gets you through the day. Eczema affects everyone differently, and this means that each individual has their own specific way of managing flares. Whether it’s your favorite lotion, your manuka honey, your eyelid cream, you name it: bring plenty of it with you to get through the road trip. Not every gas station across the heartland of America has your favorite type of moisturizer.
NEA Ambassador Amberly Sanden traveled all the way across the country to California. “For me, the hardest part of leaving home was that my skincare routine got all messed up,” she said. “I can’t rely on using a hotel’s shampoo. I have my very own prescription shampoo along with a separate steroid just for my scalp.” Amberley mentioned the importance of bringing her own soap, too. “I have to bring all my own lotions and body washes, as well, because I cannot rely on using a hotel’s brand.”
Amberly and Asthan both mentioned their caution with food while traveling. “I’m allergic to so many things,” said Ashtan. “Tomato, soy, peanuts, nickel, oats, you name it. So I brought a special bag full of everything I would want to eat while driving.” Grocery stores might be far and few between, so bring a big cooler and plan out your meals and snacks.
Amberley said she brought her inhalers and her Epi-Pens, too.
If you’re leaving your home for more than a few days, it may also be smart to transfer your prescriptions to a pharmacy or healthcare provider near your destination. It should only take a few quick phone calls. Ashtan didn’t think it would take him so much effort to transfer his dupilumab prescription; it was all in-network, from one dermatologist’s office to another. But when he arrived in Monterey, they weren’t ready for him: he tried to set up a new appointment online through his provider’s patient portal and there was no record of his prescription.
“It was like I was a brand new patient,” he said. “They’d never heard of me. I had to start all over again with a new doctor.” After several hours of phone calls with his regular provider back in Los Angeles, Ashtan was finally able to get his prescription forwarded. “Just be sure to call ahead,” he said. “I didn’t do that. And try to set up your patient profile online before you travel.”
If you’re driving a long distance, you may want to consider bringing your own laundry detergent. Ashtan mentioned that he brought his own solution. “My thing,” he said, “is to mix hot water and vinegar just to do my laundry.” Don’t forget to pack your sheets and pillowcases, too. If you’re sleeping outside or camping along the way, consider bringing a liner for your sleeping bag, or try out your sleeping bag before you leave home to be sure it doesn’t make your skin flare. If you’re headed to the beach or a place with a pool, be sure to do your research on how to pick out the right swimsuit. Last but not least: be sure you have a good playlist ready to go! Check out our NEA summer playlist provided by members of our community to hear what everyone’s listening to. Drive safe!