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Tips for holidaying with eczema

A new environment presents a fresh set of challenges for people with eczema, so it pays to be prepared. What do you need to take into account when you go on holiday? 

 

  • As soon as you’ve made your booking, work out how much of each of your prescribed treatments you will need to take with you and give your GP, dermatologist or pharmacist plenty of warning. If you’ve been experiencing issues recently with obtaining the items you need – for example, the emollient that suits you best – also factor in additional time for to-ing and fro-ing to ensure that you can definitely source everything you need.
  • Also check which travel vaccinations you require – go here – as some need to be given in multiple doses, spread over several weeks or months. This is particularly important if you need to be given a live vaccine and have been on (or are due to start) a course of immunosuppressants, or if you have been using (or are due to use) topical calcineurin inhibitors.
  • If you’re prescribed a new treatment just before your departure date, ask the prescriber whether it would be best to wait until you get back to start it, in case it causes your skin to deteriorate. And, if they still want you to start immediately, try to do so at least a week beforehand, so that you can immediately report back any issues.
  • Several eczema treatments – including ciclosporin, methotrexate and azathioprine – are known photosensitisers, which means that they make the skin extremely sensitive to the effects of sunlight, so people burn more easily, even if the sun is not very intense. If you’re currently taking one of these drugs, it’s crucial that you take extra precautions for sun protection, to avoid severe sunburn.
  • As both sun cream and insect repellent can generate an adverse reaction, it’s advisable to place a small amount of any new product that you plan to use on your inner arm every day, for five days, to make sure that your skin can tolerate it. If you’re heading to a warm climate, make sure the area being tested is also exposed to sunlight, in case your skin reacts differently under these conditions.

 

Flying

 

  • Current hand luggage rules state that you can take liquids into the airplane cabin if each container holds no more than 100ml and the containers are stored in a transparent, resealable plastic bag measuring approximately 20cm x 20cm. This might be sufficient if you are travelling short haul, with a separate bag in the hold containing the bulk of your creams, but if you are like most people with eczema, this won’t be enough to keep your skin well moisturized during a long-haul flight, or to cover additional treatments you will need to use en route, such as topical steroids.
  • This website states that you can carry essential medicines of more than 100ml in your hand luggage to cover the duration of the flight, including any potential delays. But you will need supporting documentation from a relevant medical professional, such as a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription. It’s worth contacting your GP or dermatologist several weeks in advance to organise any paperwork, as it can take time to arrive. Each item must also be in its original packaging and prescribed for you, so you cannot take emollient creams over 100ml that you have bought over the counter in your hand luggage.
  • One grey area, where there is some inconsistency in terms of official advice, is whether you need to inform the airline and airport beforehand that you will be carrying medications that exceed the 100ml rule. For peace of mind it is probably advisable to contact both, to ensure that your journey is as stress free as possible.
  • The air in planes is notoriously dry, so it’s also a good idea to plan your strategy for dealing with this in advance. As well as applying a generous amount of emollient just before boarding, consider what will be the most comfortable outfit for your skin, especially on a long-haul flight. Loose cotton clothing is always a good choice, and you may want to wear several thin layers, as a plane cabin can quickly go from being very warm to very cold, which could easily trigger a bout of itching. Also, load up on bottles of water once you are through security, so that you can keep well hydrated throughout the flight without having to rely on the drinks trolley.

 

By Claire Moulds

Tips for holidaying with eczema...