Don’t Forget to Protect Your Skin While Traveling
No matter what time of the year it is, people are ready to get out and travel after a long period of staying home. So, this seemed like the perfect time to discuss skin care while traveling. We, The Rollin’ RNs wanted to share some ideas on this topic that have worked for some of our road warriors with disabilities, including those with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) who are prone to skin breakdown.
The importance of taking care of your bottom while traveling cannot be stressed enough. Whether you’re flying, driving or touring by train or bus you should take into account how long and where you will be sitting. More likely than not, you will have to transfer to a different seat for the trip. With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’re sitting in a seat that will protect your bottom the same way your wheelchair cushion would. The easiest solution for this is to simply move your wheelchair cushion to the seat you transfer to. Keep in mind if you are flying, altitude can affect air cushions so double-check the inflation during and after the trip. If you can’t use your wheelchair cushion there are other cushions made just for traveling. They are usually a lower profile and are designed for pressure relief while sitting for long periods. And many are gel so there are no worries about proper inflation plus they keep your seat cool. This is one of our favorites.
Regardless of what cushion you sit on, don’t forget to do frequent pressure reliefs. If space is too tight to do a push-up in your seat, simply lean forward and rest your chest on your knees and hold that position to get pressure off your bottom and boney areas long enough for blood to circulate. And don’t forget to check your feet while you’re sitting. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor after your transfers and watch to make sure no one steps on them when in tight quarters such as an airplane. It’s also a good idea to pick your feet up now and then on long trips to keep blood circulating in these lower extremities.
Another time to be proactive in protecting your skin is at bedtime. It can be hard to replicate your ideal sleeping conditions when in a hotel room. The bed height can make transfers difficult and put you at risk for skin problems. Call ahead to confirm this and have staff adjust as needed. The firmness of the mattresses could also create issues. Keep this in mind when positioning at night to avoid pressure sore development. Request extra pillows if needed to help position you on your side, for between your legs, or under your bottom to prevent prolonged pressure with the mattress. And don’t forget to check on heels and ankles as these are potential hot spots for developing redness. One of our readers found a portable, inflatable, alternating air topper mattress she could travel with to prevent pressure sores that works well for her. Here is the link for it.
Traveling may also cause extra swelling in our legs and feet. If this happens to you, find some time to lay down and prop your feet up on pillows where they are raised just higher than your heart. Wearing compression stockings may also be helpful.
Last but not least, don’t forget to protect your skin from the elements. When traveling, it’s easy to get caught up in the sights and surroundings of our destinations and forget this basic necessity. Keep on hand and apply sunscreen frequently, even on cloudy days. Wearing a broad rim hat can protect the head, face, ears and neck too. Drink plenty of water, especially in warm climates and high altitudes where you can become dehydrated quicker. And at the end of the day, apply a good body lotion to keep the skin soft and moisturized.
Now that you have your body and skin care covered, go out and have some fun!
It’s all good, so keep on rollin’.
Roberta, RN and Patty, BSN, RNC
The Rollin’ RNs ™