If you’re planning a trip to undergo a cosmetic procedure, you’ve hopefully done your due diligence in vetting your surgeon, ensuring he or she is board-certified in their specialty and practicing within scope. You’ve most likely researched their experience performing the procedure of your choosing, scoured the before-and-after images and have had a consultation that has made you feel comfortable and secure about your choice. But what about the trip back home?
While there’s nothing better than arriving home to continue the healing process in the comfort of your own bed, oftentimes the excitement and nervousness about undergoing a surgical procedure may hinder the foresight needed to consider what you need to make it home safely and comfortably. Here, top plastic surgeons share their best tips on what you should never do when charting your way back home.
Avoid Traveling Too Soon
While your doctor will tell you when the right time to travel is, the experts we spoke to say not to be in a rush to get back home if you’ve undergone major surgery. “I recommend my facial surgery patients stay local for the first 8-10 days,” says Kirkland, WA facial plastic surgeon Daniel J. Liebertz, MD. “After that they are free to travel at their leisure, as long as they continue to follow our restriction guidelines which includes not lifting even moderately heavy luggage.”
Houston plastic surgeon Kriti Mohan, MD says for short breast procedures, patients can travel as early as 24 hours later, but only if the travel time is less than four hours. “If it is much longer travel, we suggest waiting at least 2-3 days before traveling back home,” she explains. “We always have our patients come see us in clinic for follow up prior to them leaving town.”
For smaller facial surgeries, New York plastic surgeon William Lao, MD agrees on a quick turnaround time, but notes that for large body procedures, it’s recommended to be on the more cautious side. “If it’s something small like an eyelid surgery or a scar revision, I think it’s easy to travel even the day after. However, if it’s something that requires suture removal, then probably five days to a week is better. If a large body contouring procedure was performed, then I recommend no long travel until at least four to six weeks after,” notes the surgeon.
Get Comfortable, But Not Too Comfortable
Tucson, AZ plastic surgeon Raman Mahabir, MD says to avoid the risk of blood clots after surgery, stay vigilant: “By wearing compression garments, not crossing your legs, wiggling your feet and ankles, and getting up for brief walks when possible, you can minimize the risks of blood clots forming.”
An easy way to incorporate movement is to remember the one-hour rule. “Whether driving or flying, we always tell our patients to get up and walk around every hour,” says Dr. Mohan. “Elevate legs when seated, and set a schedule for pain medications so they don’t get mixed up while changing time zones!”
Never Travel Alone
While the budget may not call for additional travel companions, the doctors we spoke to said you should never travel by yourself as you may need assistance along the way. “It is helpful if you can bring a friend with you to help you after surgery and during your travels,” says Toledo, OH plastic surgeon Peter F. Koltz, MD. “We provide a list of things which you will need for your recovery and we encourage you to get these prior to your travels.”
Don’t Forget to Pack the Essentials
“Compression garments, pain medication, and some gauze to change your dressings should all be in your carry-on or weekend bag,” notes Dr. Lao
Just as essential as packing the right things is staying on schedule. “Take your pain medication as scheduled,” adds Dr. Mahabir. “Be sure to take some before you begin your travel.”
Don’t Skip the Anti-Nausea Medication
“Motion sickness can be worse after a surgery,” explains Dr. Mahabir. “Make sure to pack some saltine crackers, ginger ale, and even toast, all of which may all help to settle your stomach. Stay away from spicy or acidic foods the first few days.”
Dr. Lao says not to skip meals either, even if you’re not feeling particularly hungry. “Try to avoid taking medication on an empty stomach as many meds can cause stomach upset, and always prepare some anti-nausea medication as many medications can also causes nausea and drowsiness.”
Don’t Overdo It
Finally, Dr. Lao says to remember to take it easy. You might want to get home as soon as possible, but getting there in one piece is more important. “You’ll feel great pretty soon after your procedure, but it’s important to get as much rest as possible. You need to keep reminding yourself of your restrictions to avoid any undue swelling, bruising or significant complications.”