What Does It Mean To Be Prepared When You Have Eczema?

A drawing of an emergency kit, including survival tools like map, flashlight and duct tape.

By Natalie Staples

Published On: Mar 6, 2023

Last Updated On: Mar 6, 2023

It’s important to be prepared for any situation that may arise, especially if your eczema is prone to flares when there’s an unexpected change in your routine. Whether it’s keeping your essentials well-stocked at home or packing your “go-bag”, be sure to consider all of your needs including planning ahead to help avoid a flare. We’ve consulted Dr. Jeff Yu, a board-certified dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, about what to have on hand at home, what to bring when you have to leave home and what to do if you cannot refill your prescription. 

What essentials should you keep well-stocked at home?

There are a few essential eczema items to keep well-stocked at home. Dr. Yu noted that it’s best to have moisturizers and topical medications at the ready. He advised that one should be sure to purchase moisturizers because, “you can never have too many, and you never know when the manufacturer will discontinue your favorite one and when they will be back in stock.” Additionally, he advocated for filling topical medications in advance. You should have “topical medications you need for eczema flares because your doctor may not always be available to refill your medication if you run out today.” He warns that it’s best to plan ahead and allow “at least 48–72 hours for refills.” 

What should you carry with you while traveling or away from home?

As the weather gets warmer, you may be looking to travel and there are a few essential items to bring with you:

  1. Dr. Yu advocated for bringing topical steroids: “I look at these as fire extinguishers, especially when you’re traveling and a doctor or pharmacy may not be easy to find. I would always carry your tried and true topical medication with you just in case you get itchy and need temporary relief. Most tubes are small enough to be allowed in a carry-on, but a doctor’s note can also be helpful if you’re in doubt.” 
  1. Moisturizer is also a must! Dr. Yu elaborated, “Moisturizing is like brushing your teeth. Doing it twice a day to prevent flares becomes a habit, and it shouldn’t change just because you’re on vacation [or away from home]. Most people’s eczema may improve on vacation, often because of decreased stress, warmer/sunnier climate, etc., but moisturizing twice a day with your favorite hypoallergenic moisturizer should still continue.” 
  1. Be sure to bring sunscreen, too! Dr. Yu explained, “It is always a great idea to bring the one that you know suits your skin and won’t cause itching or burning. Look for physical or mineral sunscreens that are safe to use on the face and on the body. Whether you are hiking, on the beach or just having a picnic [outdoors], applying sunscreen can help prevent sunburns, skin cancers and premature aging.” 

Let’s say you’ve planned ahead and have all of these items to use as needed — great! However, this isn’t always possible. 

What happens if you cannot refill your prescription due to travel, illness or inclement weather?

There are a few unforeseen reasons that you may not be able to fill your prescription as needed. And that is okay because you likely have a variation of what’s needed in your bag or at home. Dr. Yu noted that “most atopic [dermatitis] patients I know have multiple tubes of topical medication lying around. Chances are, there is something else in the house that is suitable for your skin. Topical steroids come in seven general classes from class 1 (high potency) to class 7 (low potency). There are many topical steroids that are within the same class that dermatologists like to give, so there’s likely some redundancy. If you run out of topical medication for your hands but they are flaring, chances are, there is another comparable one in the bag.”

Dr. Yu explained that “the expiration date is not always a hard and fast rule. Unlike milk in the fridge that expires, topical steroids may lose some efficacy after the expiration date, but are rarely dangerous to use if just slightly expired. I wouldn’t use something from years ago but a few months past the expiration date is usually fine.” 

Be sure to prepare yourself for the unexpected with a stock of essential items for at home and for traveling. And remember, if you can’t get to the store, consider asking your doctor about a comparable medication for emergencies. 

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