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Managing your stress is a great way to avoid triggering a psoriasis flare-up. What could be a more fun way to unwind than a relaxing trip? Unless, of course, the benefits of a vacation are outweighed by the stress of traveling there! “Traveling can be a problem for people with psoriasis on a number of levels,” says Donald V. Belsito, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “First, transporting medications, particularly through an airport, can be difficult. Then the stress of travel and sudden changes in climate can present other challenges.” But by planning ahead, you can have smooth travels… and smooth skin.
1. Follow rules about packing your medications. Getting through security at airports today is never simple, but if you have to take your medications with you in your carry-on bags, it can be especially tricky. Follow these guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
- Remember the 3-1-1 Rule: If you are carrying nonprescription lotions, ointments or creams with you, put them in a container that is not more that 3.4 ounces, and put that container in a one-quart zip-top bag—and remember only one zip-top bag is allowed per passenger.
- Keep prescription medications in their original packaging—including keeping any outer boxes or wrapping on which prescription information is written.
- For refrigerated medications (some biologic medications, for example), see if the manufacturer offers travel coolers for your meds that you could bring on a plane. “Don’t pack biologic medications in checked suitcases, because you can’t be sure of the circumstances under which they will be stored,” says Dr. Belsito. “Getting shaken could denature the proteins and damage the medications.”
- Ask your dermatologist to write a letter explaining your condition and why you need to bring your medications with you on the plane, and keep it handy when you travel. The TSA doesn’t require such a letter, but Dr. Belsito says it has helped his patients breeze through airport security.
- For more specifics about flying with your medications, check out the TSA’s Web site.
2. Minimize stress. If you know traveling stresses you, make your journey easier by booking direct flights at convenient, not excessively crowded times, if possible. Allow yourself extra time to get where you’re going on the road or in the air. Learn stress-reduction techniques that you can use to calm yourself while you’re traveling, such as imagery, deep-breathing exercises, progressive relaxation or other strategies. If you’re really concerned that travel-induced stress might make your psoriasis flare, talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking an antianxiety medication to calm you when you travel.
3. Beat the dry air. Planes, and to a lesser degree, trains and cars, can be dry environments. Moisturize your skin well before you set out on your trip, and reapply your topical treatments if you feel your skin starting to itch or feel dry. Drink plenty of water while you travel to keep well hydrated on the inside, and skip caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which can be dehydrating.
4. Consider the climate you’re traveling to. Is it likely to trigger your psoriasis? Ask your doctor if there’s a way to minimize this risk, such as doing light treatments to prepare your skin before you go to a sunny climate, or getting a heavier moisturizer if you’re headed to the ski slopes. “I sometimes prescribe a dose of prednisone for patients to take with them on their trip,” says Dr. Belsito. “That way, if their skin flares, they have an anti-inflammatory medication available to calm it down. The risk, however, is that they can have a rebound flare when they go off the prednisone at home, but at least the flare won’t ruin their trip.”
5) Be sun smart. For most people with psoriasis, exposing the skin to a little sun can improve its condition, but getting sunburned could be a trigger for flare-ups. Whether you’re hitting the ski slopes or the tropics, be sure to pack a moisturizing sunscreen, and don’t go out in the sun unprotected for more than 15 minutes unless directed to do so by your doctor.
6. Dress comfortably. Wear loose-fitting clothes in soft fabrics that won’t chafe or irritate your skin if you need to sit for a long time.
Finally, don’t let the appearance of your skin ruin your trip. “One of the biggest problems that people with psoriasis have when traveling is the embarrassment of having to interact with so many people who might see their skin—from checking in at the airport, to going through security, to checking into hotels, to eating out at restaurants, to going to a beach,” says Dr. Belsito. “I encourage people with psoriasis not to let that bother them.” Focus on spending time with people you enjoy in a beautiful place, and your vacation might not only be better, your skin might improve, too.