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Travel Tips: A Derm PA’s Take on Things to Know When You Go!

  1. Sunscreen- We know that pilots have an increased risk of skin cancer. This is because when we are flying, we are closer to the UVA and UVB rays that damage the DNA of our skin and cause skin cancer. Everyone should be using a sunscreen every day, but especially when you fly (window seat shout out). Apply sunscreen to your face, backs of the hands and décolletage area. I recommend a physical blocker, meaning a sunscreen with the active ingredients of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These larger molecules sit on top of the skin and reflect the UVA and UVB versus chemical blockers (avobenzone, oxybenzone) that absorb sun rays. To illustrate, Zinc oxide functions as a mirror, while oxybenzone is more like a UV sponge. Go with a cream or lotion for the morning application and bring with you a powder sunscreen for reapplication (ideally every two hours). Your aerosol sunscreens will need to be in a checked bag or bought at your location.
  2. Moisturizer and water– your body, including your face, hands, and hair, can get very dehydrated when you travel on an airplane. Drop a three-ounce lightweight moisturizer in your carry-on so you could use it for face and hands.
  3. If you have HSV1 or HSV2 (herpes), bring your antiviral medication with you. Travel or family stress, new climates, trauma can trigger an outbreak, so stow your medicine in your bag, so you don’t have to waste time and stress about calling for a new script to be transferred to your location.
  4. Pack an antihistamine like diphenhydramine or cetirizine in case you or a travel companion have any allergic reaction or allergy issues.
  5. Check your medications to see if any will photosensitize you – a great example would be the antibiotic doxycycline (another window seat shout out, 6 hours by the window could leave you sunburned before you even make it to the beach!)
  6. If you are traveling to a sunny place in Jan or Spring you could be at risk for PMLE, (polymorphous light eruption), a red itchy rash that appears after sun exposure. This PMLE tends to reoccur year after year after the first time you have the rash, so if this is you, your topical or oral steroids need to be in your bag. You can also pretreat before the trip or aggressively photo protect yourself (think no sun rays hitting your skin, so sun shirts and wide-brimmed hats) to prevent yourself from getting the rash if you don’t want to do the steroids.
  7. If you have rosacea, it can flare on vacation. Sun, wind, alcohol (all the best things in life) can flare rosacea. So, if you are treated with topical medications for rosacea, be sure you are being faithful to these before and during vacation. Also, sunscreen daily will help. In a pinch, you can use topical OTC oxymetazoline nasal spray (google for the name brand, which you will recognize), on the face to decrease redness for about 8 hours. However, you can’t use this for more than 3 three days without getting a rebound redder/flushed look, so I would suggest, you only use this one time and not on consecutive days

See Cynthia Griffith, MPAS, PA-C speak at a 2020 Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts event in DestinPensacola BeachSan AntonioLas Vegas