Traveling with Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis should not stop you from living your best life. Armed with the right information, people with atopic dermatitis can enjoy visiting new places and having new experiences.1,2 The best defense against flares is anticipating them and having the tools ready so you can manage.1,3

Keep your triggers in mind while planning your trip.

The most commonly reported atopic dermatitis triggers were stress, sweat, weather change, dry air and heat.4 Guess what? You are likely to experience all of the above and more when you travel. Read up on your destination and try to anticipate what triggers you are likely to encounter, and plan to either avoid triggers or minimize their impact on you.5

Make sure your environment is safe.

For example, when you travel, you are likely to be staying at a hotel or someone else’s home. Take a look at the hotel’s website, give the hotel or your host a call and tactfully ask about your room situation and cleanliness.

If you have a choice, arrange for accommodations that use minimal fabrics, non-feather pillows, hard surface floors instead of carpets, and a bathtub in case you need to soak.1-3 Aside from molds, dust mites and animal dander, pollen is another major allergen,6 so look for rooms that give you the option to close off the outdoors if necessary.

Choose adventures that will make your trip better, not worse.

New experiences are another big attraction when traveling, so make sure to thoroughly research any interesting activities before you commit to them.1-3

For example, if you plan on swimming, try to find out about how clean the pool or beach is, and how crowded it can get.7 Schedule your visit during less crowded times to minimize both stress and exposure to other travelers’ who may unknowingly be carrying allergens.3,7 Also, make sure there are facilities with clean water for rinsing so you don’t have to wait until you get back to your room.7

Explore cuisine with care.

While food allergies are uncommon for individuals with atopic dermatitis, travel may expose you to unfamiliar ingredients. So while it can be fun to try new and exotic foods, it’s important to make sure that exciting tastes are all that you are going to get.6

Be aware of your food triggers.5,6 Don’t be afraid to ask about ingredients when you go into restaurants or ask locals or your hotel to recommend reputable establishments that are aware of the possibility of food allergies.1 If an ingredient is new or unfamiliar, best to approach it with caution.6

Bring a stash of snacks.1,3 That way, if you are in a situation where you are unsure of where to get safe food, you have something on hand for sustenance.1,6

Stock up and pack your essentials.

Once you have all the necessary information about your destination, you can start planning what to pack.1,3 Always bring at least twice as much as you think you will need, as you will never be absolutely assured of product availability.1.3

Don’t gamble with skin care.

It’s not advisable to experiment with the free toiletries in hotels, use your tried and tested.3 If you are planning a long stay, think about having some products shipped ahead to your destination, that way they won’t eat into your luggage allowance.1

If you cannot be assured of hypoallergenic beddings and laundry practices, pack your own towels, pillows and other beddings.1,3 It’s not just the fabric that you need to worry about. even if they use cotton and other natural fabrics, there is always the possibility that the laundry detergent or some of the linen or cleaning sprays they use could cause a flare.1,3,7   

On the subject of packing, make sure to bring plenty of loose and comfortable clothes, as well as some of your own laundry detergent.3 That way, in case you run out of clothes and need to do some laundry, you won’t have to take the risk of using untested detergent.3 

Prep a Flare Kit.

Even though the plan is to avoid flares altogether, it’s best to be prepared in case the worst happens.1,3 Bring the medication and materials you use whenever you experience flares.1,3 Aside from your usual flare paraphernalia, you might want to bring more intensive remedies that work for severe flares, just in case you get a particularly bad episode.1,3

Do some research on health care providers, specialist doctors or hospitals at your destination in case of an emergency requiring more specialized care.1 Inform you doctor of your trip and have their contact information in case the local health care personnel where you are need to talk to them.1

Common Thoughts: Worries and Solutions

  • What if I need to get on a plane?

People with atopic dermatitis can fly the friendly skies in confidence and comfort. As long as they are properly equipped.

Bring antibacterial wipes to clean your seat and other surfaces.1,3 Previous travelers might be carrying allergens, and the cleaning products used by the airline might contain chemicals you are sensitive to.1  

Bring your own pillow and sheets onto the plane.1,3 Even if it’s not a long flight, recirculated air and close quarters might expose you to fragrance and other allergens, so the more protection you have, the better. 1,3

Pack a 2-day supply of essentials - including your toiletries, medications and flare kit- into you carry-on.1-3 Checked luggage can be lost or delayed, or you might experience a flare while in the air. 1-3 You might also need a letter from your physician to allow you to bring liquids past the limit allowance or lets you pre-board so that you can settle in and relax better.1

  • What if I’m going somewhere with a different climate?

You can enjoy experiencing a different climate, as long as you are prepared.

The first step is to understand your temperature triggers.1 This will help you decide if the weather at your destination will be pleasant, bearable, or problematic.1 Be flexible, consider changing the time of year for your visit if necessary.1

In case you are going into an unpredictable climate, bring layers of clothing.3 This allows you to remove layers if you overheat or sweat, or add layers if you get a chill.1,3

  • What if I want to shop for clothes or souvenirs?

Shopping for clothes and other souvenirs can be fun! Just keep a few things in mind.

When buying clothes, pay attention to the fabrics, and ask about manufacturing methods.5,7 Synthetic fabrics can trigger flares, so choose natural fabrics like cotton, hemp, or bamboo. 5,7 Watch out for dyes and other chemicals that may have been used.5,7 Before trying anything on, wash the items a few times with your own hypoallergenic detergent.5,7

Pay similar attention to the materials and decorations used to make souvenirs.5 If you are going to come into contact with the item, or put it in your luggage with your clothes, watch out for problematic chemicals.5 Or, bring zip lock baggies so you can isolate your souvenir items until you can clean them properly once you get home.

Win the mental game.

Traveling can be stressful in and of itself, but the potential for flares on top can make the idea daunting.1-3 Mental health preparedness before travel can help make your vacation worry-free.1-3

Pre-trip jitters can trigger a flare.1 Step up your skin care regime a few days before departure with more baths, more moisturizers, extra vigilance over hot spots.1 This will ensure that you skin is well moisturized and at its best possible state before you travel.3

While on your trip, focus on keeping a positive outlook.1,2,9 Sleep whenever and wherever you can so you never feel too fatigued.2 Travel with a support group or keep your travel companions informed about your condition and what you are feeling.8 A good mood can help keep stress and flares at bay.1,2,9

Know that there might be good days and bad days, but as long as you embrace your condition and set realistic expectations, you will be all set for a trip to remember.1,9 Bon Voyage!

References:

  1. Jones, K. (2020). “Bon Voyage, Eczema! How to travel without triggering a flare”. National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/travel-with-eczema/ (Accessed October 27, 2021)
  2. Jones, K. (2020). “Tips from a world-traveling eczema warrior.” National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/camille-knowles/ (Accessed October 27, 2021)
  3. National Eczema Association. (2020). “Community Tips: What are your top eczema-friendly travel tips?” https://nationaleczema.org/scratch-pad-travel-tips/ (Accessed October 27, 2021)
  4. Silverberg, J.I., Lei, D., Yousaf, M., et al. (2020). Association of itch triggers with atopic dermatitis severity and course in adults. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, 125(5), 552-559.e2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32544530/
  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2021). “Eczema Types: Atopic Dermatitis: Tips for Coping”. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/atopic-dermatitis-coping (Accessed October 27, 2021)
  6. Caubet, J-C. & Eigenmann, P.A. (2010). Allergic triggers in atopic dermatitis. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am, 30(3), 289-307. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1052.6590&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  7. Ballard A. (2021). “Are you allergic to your swimsuit?” National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/swimsuit-allergies/ (Accessed October 27, 2021)
  8. Jones, K. (2021). “Globetrotting with eczema”. National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/globetrotting-with-eczema/ (Accessed October 27, 2021)
  9. Pina, H. (2021). “Five tips on loving your body this summer”. National Eczema Association. https://nationaleczema.org/body-image-eczema/ (Accessed October 27, 2021)

MAT-MY-2101515 (12/2021)

Health information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only. Your healthcare professional is the single best source of information regarding your health. Please consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.