Vacations are for quality family time, exploring far-away places, and enjoying new experiences–not the ideal time for an eczema flare. But eczema flare-ups while traveling aren’t uncommon. If you’ve ever experienced worsening eczema symptoms while on vacation, you may be wondering: Can travel trigger eczema? The answer is yes! Let us explain how common vacation activities like flying, swimming, staying in hotels, and eating new foods can result in an eczema flare-up for you or your child.
Does flying make eczema worse?
Flying can be tough on your skin because the air in the plane cabin is often very dry. One study found that from over the course of a plane trip, the humidity ranged from 10.1% to 45.6% inside the plane cabin. The ideal humidity level for healthy skin is 30% to 50%, meaning the air in the airplane dried out passengers’ skin due to low humidity levels. To help care for your skin while flying, moisturize and drink plenty of water. Keep in mind that flying is temporary and caring for your skin before, during, and after your flight can help negate the effects of dry air and help prevent an eczema flare-up while traveling.
Things to keep in mind when planning your trip
1. Plan for changes in weather
Whether you’re heading for the hot, sunny beach or a chilly mountain escape, you’ll want to prepare to prevent weather-related eczema flare-ups. Both the cold and the heat can make eczema worse. It’s important to recognize how weather affects your eczema personally, as people with atopic dermatitis will always have unique experiences.
Whether you’re heading into a cool, dry region or hot, humid area, pack layers so you can better regulate your body temperature as the weather fluctuates throughout the day. Keeping your skin covered can also help protect you from wind and sun.
2. Be mindful of time spent in the water
Swimming, either in a chlorine pool, freshwater lake, or salty ocean water, can play a big part in a fun-in-the-sun family vacation. Some people with eczema find that chlorine and salt water irritate their sensitive skin. Others find that salt water and chlorine offer some relief.
Swimming with eczema is possible — and can be a very enjoyable experience. The best thing you can do while splashing in the water on your sunny vacation is be mindful about how the water is affecting you. Be sure to rinse off chlorine or salt after swimming. When you're showering, keep the water temperature lukewarm, as long, hot showers can exacerbate eczema symptoms. Moisturize immediately afterwards to help lock in moisture and avoid dry, flaky skin.
3. Bring your own hygiene and skincare products
Hotel soaps and hair care products generally aren’t formulated for sensitive or eczema-prone skin. They often contain fragrances, dyes, and other harsh ingredients that can cause skin irritation in people with eczema.
To avoid unwanted reactions from the hotel products, bring along the skincare and hygiene products you use at home, including creams, lotions, shampoo, body wash, and face wash. Maintaining your usual skincare regimen will help keep your skin happy and healthy.
4. Make sure your linens are washed in gentle, fragrance-free detergent
Laundry detergent is a common eczema trigger because it can contain harsh ingredients that can irritate the skin. It’s important for people with eczema to establish a laundry routine that’s gentle on their skin – but you don’t always know what detergents hotel sheets or guest bed linens are washed in.
Nobody wants to arrive at their hotel, rental, or family member’s house only to discover that the linens on the bed are washed in irritating detergent—and wake up itching all over in the middle of the night. You may want to contact your hotel or host ahead of time and ask if they are able to make sure your sheets are washed in an eczema-friendly detergent. If they can’t accommodate your request, consider bringing your own linens so you can sleep comfortably.
5. Practice stress management
Flight delays and cancellations, getting lost in a foreign city, planning an itinerary to keep the entire family happy — they’re all stressful aspects of traveling. To help prevent stress-induced eczema, remember to practice stress management, even when you’re on vacation.
Ways you can help regulate your stress levels while you’re away include journaling, meditating, taking some time away for yourself, and moving your body.
6. Your eczema travel packing list
Being prepared for an eczema flare-up is essential when you're on the road. Pack an eczema toolkit for while you’re away, including:
- Your go-to hygiene products
- Travel-sized eczema creams
- Prescriptions, if applicable
- Gentle sunscreen
- Breathable, loose-fitting pajamas
- First aid kit
- Sun protection, such as UV protective clothes or a hat
- Allergen-free snacks
Traveling with kids who have eczema
Helping your child manage their eczema while traveling is a lot like how you’d care for your own eczema. You’ll want to pack the proper clothing and prepare for your destination’s climate, stick to their regular skincare/hygiene routine, and pay attention to how their skin is reacting to water.
However, here are a couple extra helpful tips to avoid eczema flare-ups while traveling that work especially well for young ones:
1. Bring allergy-friendly snacks
If your child’s eczema worsens after eating allergens such as dairy or peanuts, be sure to pack allergen-free snacks in case your little one gets hungry while you’re traveling.
While you may be able to find an allergy-friendly meal on-the-go, children aren’t typically as patient as adults when they get hungry. Having something easily within reach at all times will help ensure smoother travels.
2. Help prevent scratching with protective clothing
Just like for adults, eczema in toddlers and babies is quite itchy. And we all know that while the urge to scratch is incredibly real and hard to resist, scratching only makes things worse. Because your child hasn’t grown into their impulse control yet, protecting their sensitive skin against scratching is important — especially at night when you can’t catch them running their nails against their rash.
You may want to bring onesies or shirts with built-in mittens on your trip to help cover your child’s fingers and prevent them from scratching.
For more tips for helping your little one, especially while you’re on the go, check out our guide to baby eczema.
What to do if you have an eczema flare-up while traveling
Before you depart, talk to your primary healthcare provider to come up with a game plan for how to handle a travel flare-up. Use your healthcare provider’s recommendations to personalize the items you bring with you.
Depending on your doctor, they may recommend antihistamines, prescription creams, wet dressings, or cool compresses.
When your doctor’s recommendations and pre-packed first aid kit aren’t cutting it, consider finding a local walk-in clinic for real-time treatment.
Planning a Trip? Add Gladskin to Your Packing List.
By understanding what causes eczema flare-ups, you can better prepare for when they happen. Dermatologists know that an imbalance in the skin’s microbiome can lead to the itch, redness, and discomfort associated with eczema-prone skin.
Whether at home or on the road, Gladskin Eczema Cream with Micreobalance® restores balance to your skin microbiome. Steroid-free, minimally formulated, and moisturizing, it's clinically proven to reduce eczema symptoms.