Wouldn’t it be nice if your psoriasis would take a hike when you take a trip? Even though you can’t leave home without it, you can safeguard your skin against flare-ups and make sure it takes a back seat when you travel.
1. Cut Back on Stress.
“Travel can be stressful, and stress is the most common cause of psoriasis flares,” says Ronald Prussick, MD, medical director at The Washington Dermatology Center.
When you’re feeling tense, your body makes hormones to protect itself. These hormones cause inflammation, which can make psoriasis symptoms worse.
Prussick recommends you get enough sleep the night before a trip. And plan ahead to help things go smoothly.
“If you leave everything to the last minute, you’ll be more stressed,” he says. “Pack and get organized early, and if you’re flying, leave lots of time to get to the airport.”
2. Pack Skin Protection
From the tropics to the frozen tundra, psoriasis triggers are everywhere.
“Anything that makes you to want to scratch can be a problem,” says Cindy Halstead of Ashland, VA. She has the skin condition.
Insect bites, sunburns, and dry skin from cold air can all cause itchiness, which leads to scratching.
While it’s true that the sun can be good for psoriasis, Prussick says it’s important to limit your time in it to avoid burning. Pack a hat and clothes that will block the sun if you’ll be outside a lot.
“A sunburn is an injury that can not only increase [the] risk of skin cancer in the future, but also trigger a wound and a psoriasis flare,” he says. “Wear at least an SPF of 30 with zinc oxide as an active ingredient to block the UVA rays.”
If you know you’ll be around biting bugs, bring an insect repellent that has DEET. But use it with caution. “DEET can irritate your skin, so try to spray it only on your clothes,” Prussick says.
3. Prepare for Dry Air
Dehydration can dry out and split your skin, which is a fast track to plaques.
“Small cracks in the skin and scratching will bring immune cells into the skin, which can cause more plaques,” Prussick says.
“Dry air is my biggest trigger, so if I’m traveling somewhere with low humidity, I’m careful to stay hydrated,” says Carrie Willard of Houston. “Air travel can be particularly dry, so I drink a lot of water.”
How you bathe can make a difference to your skin, too. In dry climates, take quicker lukewarm showers, and try not to use much soap on your arms and legs, Prussick says.
4. Stretch to Stay Loose
Whether it’s by air, land, or sea, getting from point A to point B often involves a lot of sitting.
That can make your joints stiff, especially if you have psoriatic arthritis, a disease that often comes with the skin condition. “For air travel, try to get an aisle seat, and get up hourly to walk around. If you’re driving, stop hourly and get out of the car and walk or stretch for 3-5 minutes,” Prussick says.
5. Don’t Let Meds Ground You
Medication in any form has to be screened by the TSA before you fly. Label your meds clearly, and check the laws in your state to see if you need prescription labels.
Non-medicated liquids, like lotion, have to follow TSA’s 3-1-1 rule: no more than 3.4 ounces, packed in clear containers, in a clear quart-sized bag.
“I'm partial to a lotion stick or lotion in a tin rather than a tube or bottle,” Halstead says. “It's less messy in tight spaces, and won't leak if the bag gets squished.”
If you take biologic drugs with a shot, TSA requires the syringe to go through X-ray screening. Also, international travelers should know that biologic drugs and vaccines don’t mix, Prussick says.
“If you are on a biologic you can’t take a live viral vaccine, so your biologic will have to be stopped several weeks before the vaccine can be taken,” he says.
6. Keep Germs at Bay
Some psoriasis treatments suppress your immune system. If this happens, you have a good chance of bringing back an unwanted souvenir.
“We recommend regular hand washing and getting an annual flu shot,” says Joel Gelfand, MD, director of the Dermatology Phototherapy Treatment Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
You can also carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for the times you can’t get to a sink.
7. Dress for Comfort
Sure, those skinny jeans look good on you. But do they feel good? If the answer is no, leave them at home.
“Tight clothes can promote heat and pressure on the skin, which can increase itching and trigger psoriasis,” Prussick says. Wear cotton and breathable fabrics so you sweat less.
Comfy shoes are also a must when you’ll be walking a lot. Choose a pair that don’t rub or pinch your feet.
“For long car rides and air travel, I usually take off my shoes,” Willard says. “My psoriasis is mostly present on my ankles, and friction irritates it.”
8. Stick to Your Plan
Don’t take a vacation from your psoriasis treatments. Going off your meds can have major effects. It could even turn your psoriasis into another, more serious type.
“It's easy to fall into bed and forget about lotions and medications when you’re traveling,” Halstead says.
Set reminders on your smartphone to be sure you’re following your doctor’s orders, or ask a travel companion to help you stay on schedule.