Traveling with a Compromised Immune System
Last updated: September 2018
I recently traveled to San Francisco for a family funeral. My husband’s 90+ year-old grandfather – a person who always had an open heart and loved all who came into his life – had passed away. It certainly was a sad time, and the stress of travel and arrangements had definitely started taking a toll on my own health.
Here Comes the Flare
In addition to the stress planning this trip, I had just spent the previous two weeks with a cold (possibly bronchitis) – a.k.a. “normal people” sick. So, like clockwork, I started to flare with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. This always happens after I’m sick. This always happens after stress. Put the two together and I thought I was doomed.
My skin and joints were not my friends. I definitely have had bigger flares that covered my whole body, and I fully expected that to happen again, but I got lucky this time. Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flares only lasted a week or two, and there were days I could barely walk, but yes, I was very lucky indeed!
I started to get very nervous about triggering it all over again and not faring as well this time around. I honestly can’t remember the last time I traveled by plane and did not come home sick. I was determined to keep the germs at bay this time, but it wasn’t going to be an easy task.
With a compromised immune system due to biologic medication, just getting over being sick, the start of a flare, and a very hectic travel schedule (Detroit to Orlando; layover; Orlando to San Francisco with arrival at 9 pm local time; less than two days later, San Francisco to Las Vegas at night; layover; Las Vegas to Detroit with arrival at 6:15 am) … Well, staying healthy was not going to be easy. Thanks to friends in the chronic life community, I got some great advice and was able to stay germ-free!
Keeping the Germs Away
From the airports to the planes, I armed myself with some great weapons to kill those germs. I never let my guard down. Here’s how I did it:
- Face mask: No regular face mask would do for me. Let’s “face” it, that’s just not in my DNA. I found a four-pack of silly masks on Amazon and wore two of them during the trip. I was careful when I was in close quarters with others, especially the TSA line and the boarding line. I’m pretty sure I embarrassed my husband, but again, no germs, so I’ll take it.
- Hand sanitizer: One small bottle lasted the trip, but just barely. Sure, my hands were dry from applying it often, but it was worth it.
- Disinfectant wipes: From the chairs at the gate to the seats on the plane, I wiped down everything in my area. I made sure to get the tray tables, seatbelts, and even my own luggage. I even made sure to scrub my husband’s area, too. Again, he was embarrassed, but I came home germ-free, so it was worth it.
- Bottled water: I got multiple suggestions to buy bottled water and not drink the water at the airports or on the planes. Seeing as how the price for water was astronomical, I opted for a water bottle and filled at the water bottle stations by the drinking fountains. If I could stomach the cost of purchasing water, I probably would have went that route.
- Essential oil: Friends recommended I put a small amount of thieves essential oil on my wrists and behind my ears to keep the germs away. I had every intention of doing that, but I forgot the oils at home. I’ll bring them along for the next trip.
- Rest: When I returned home, I took time off from my regular schedule to make sure I could rest fully. No kickboxing, no housework, no visits with friends and family. This downtime was very important to rest my body.
Thank you to all of my friends who offered up this advice. It really worked for me. I think I’m ready for my next trip.
Does your psoriasis management change with the seasons?