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The Professional Hobo: Staying Healthy While Traveling – Natural Preventions and Cures

MAY 1, 2019

There is nothing worse than being sick while traveling, and many a travel-related illness can be avoided (or at least mitigated). Please, for the love of all things good, take it from me. I’ve been there.

The advice in this post has come from over a decade of full-time travel, often learning the hard way; lessons learned in seemingly innocuous places, as well as truly inhospitable environments. Here’s how I survived (at times, barely).

It’s all about prevention.

In this guide I lay out the exact process for staying healthy while traveling, and preventing nasty things from happening. Because when icky stuff strikes, your budget – as well as your trip – may well be blown.

So let’s make sure icky stuff doesn’t strike, shall we? Let’s get started.


Got a Weird Skin Thing? Here’s What to Do.

Goodness knows, over the years I’ve had a ton of weird skin things. From heat rashes, to bug bites, to allergic reactions and more, skin disturbances can range from mild to severe, and non-serious to life-threatening.

Problem is, when you’re off in the boonies somewhere you don’t speak the language, how do you know?

When I was in Australia, I got 37 spider bites in one fateful night. They looked like they were healing up nicely, until two weeks later when they exploded (literally – it was gross). I asked a pharmacist to look at the carnage; they told me I needed to go to the hospital.

I might have been able to avoid that hospital trip if I had known about Aysa.

Aysa is a free app that is built using AI and the expertise of over 47,000 physicians and nurses. It’s so simple – you just take a picture of your skin condition. The app asks a few follow up questions and gives you a list of possible conditions and treatments. While it’s not a substitute for an in-person medical diagnosis, it is a great preventative health tool that just may help you nip a skin problem in the bud – before it becomes serious.

Perhaps if I had used Aysa when I was in Australia, I’d have learned that some antibiotic cream would have prevented the all-out infection I ended up with.

Learn more ways the Professional Hobo stays healthy while traveling.

The Professional Hobo: The Best (Must Have) Travel Apps (25 of My Personal Favourites)

MAY 4, 2019

According to recent studies, nearly two-thirds of U.S. travelers rely on smartphone apps to enhance their travels.

  • 61% have booked and paid for travel through their smartphone
  • 65% want real-time flight alerts throughout the journey
  • 54% prefer to use an app to add booking extras on-the-go

Would you believe I started traveling full-time before smartphones were really common? (Gosh, that dates me).

Having said that, I would be lost without my smartphone now. With all my years on the road, I’ve harnessed my smartphone to make travel easier, faster, cheaper, and more comfortable.

Here are 25 smartphone apps that have transformed travel as we know it.

On the Go Apps

Skin Condition Questions? AI-Inspired Answers with Ask Aysa

I recently discoverd this app, and now it’s on my phone both on the road and at home. Using the expertise of over 47,000 physicians and nurses along with AI technology, this app is pretty revolutionary.

On the road, it’s so easy to have a “skin thing” – be it inflammation, bumps, flakes, or something else entirely.

Is it serious or not? You sure don’t want to ruin your trip by sitting in the emergency room unnecessarily; then again you don’t want to ignore a problem that becomes serious as a result (trust me; I’ve done both).

That is where Aysa comes in. Simply take a picture of your skin condition, answer the follow up questions, and Aysa will analyze your photo and give you personalized guidance. While it’s not a diagnosis tool per se, it may help put your mind at ease, or preventatively treat a little problem before it becomes a big one (or alert you to something that may require medical attention).

It’s a great travel app, because on the road, you might not be in easy distance of medical care, or even anybody who speaks English. Aysa is my first line of defence when I have an abnormality on my skin.


Three Ways You Can Help Prevent Melanoma

In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide helpful information on how to prevent melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers.1 Although melanoma is the least common of skin cancers, it causes the most skin cancer deaths by far. The good news is that if it is recognized early, it can be successfully treated.

Here are three ways you can help prevent melanoma:

Know Your Risk Factors

It is estimated that in 2019, 7,230 people are expected to die of melanoma.1 Though the disease can affect anyone, increased risk factors2 include:

  • A family history of melanoma – If someone in your family had melanoma, it increases your risk 10-fold.
  • Fair skin, light eyes, and a tendency to freckle – The risk of getting melanoma is 1 in 50 for Caucasians, 1 in 200 for Hispanics, and 1 in 1,000 for people of African descent.
  • A large number of moles, especially unusual appearing moles.
  • History of frequent sun exposure, especially in childhood.
  • History of sunburns.
  • Decreased immune system, such as transplant patients and patients with HIV/AIDS.

Check Yourself

Though melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer, it is highly treatable when caught early.3 The best way to protect yourself is to perform self-exams. The warning signs are known as the ABCDEs of melanoma.2

  • A – Asymmetry: One-half of the mole does not look like the other half.
  • B – Border: The outline of the mole is irregular.
  • C – Color: More than one color can be seen, such as brown, black, red, blue, and white.
  • D – Diameter: A mole larger than 6 mm (1/4 inch), which is roughly the size of a pencil eraser.
  • E – Evolving: Changes in the mole over time.

Self-exams should be performed once a month in a well-lit area after a shower or bath. Using a mirror can be helpful for difficult-to-see areas of the skin.

Contact your doctor if you identify a suspicious mole or other skin mark!

Avoid Sun Exposure & Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen

UV sun exposure is another huge risk factor for developing melanoma. In fact, nearly 90% of melanomas are thought to be caused by UV light and sunlight.4 Sunburn also plays a huge role in increasing the chances for the disease. One blistering sunburn can more than double a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life. Be sure to have proper SPF coverage when you are in the sun, and avoid tanning beds at all costs.

When it comes to a suspicious mole or other skin mark, it is always recommended to contact your dermatologist or primary care physician as soon as possible.

Everyone will likely face a skin issue in their lifetime. With the snap of a picture, Aysa is here to answer all your questions and give guidance on what to do next. Download our app today!








  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for melanoma skin cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed May 10, 2019.
  2. Melanoma. https://www.skinsight.com/skin-conditions/adult/melanoma. Accessed May 10, 2019.
  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Melanoma. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma#overview. Accessed May 10, 2019.
  4. Melanoma Research Foundation. Melanoma facts & stats. https://melanoma.org/melanoma-education/understand-melanoma/facts-stats/. Accessed May 10, 2019.

Survey: Millennials Say They Care About Skin Damage but Don’t Take the Right Precautions

ROCHESTER, NY (April 24, 2019)

In a survey of more than 1,500 U.S. millennials, 7 in 10 say skin damage is a significant concern for them. Yet when it comes to skin care and sun precautions, their everyday practices suggest a different attitude. A new poll sponsored by the developers of Aysa, an artificial intelligence-driven symptom checker app, aimed to uncover millennial attitudes and habits when it comes to protecting their skin – and here’s what it found.

Although 70% of millennials surveyed say they are concerned about skin damage from the sun, only 14% use sunscreen every day – despite the fact that sunscreen is widely known to be the best protector against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sunscreen should be used every day, even if it is cloudy, as 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate skin on those days. Nevertheless, 4 in 10 millennials surveyed only used sunscreen when they expected to be spending time in the sun. Fortunately, when millennials do use sunscreen, 78% use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher (as recommended by the AAD).

“Dermatologists are seeing a concerning rise in skin cancer among young people and continued lack of precaution,” says Dr. Art Papier, dermatologist and CEO of Aysa’s parent company, VisualDx. “Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and melanoma rates continue to increase rapidly.” In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, and men and women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing melanoma.

While 25% of millennials surveyed acknowledged a family history of skin cancer, of this group, 43% have never seen a dermatologist for a routine checkup. This is concerning because, as Dr. Papier notes, “Individuals, regardless of age, with a family history of skin cancer should be evaluated by a dermatologist and then see a dermatologist yearly for a full body scan if their risk profile is high.”

In 2017, the average wait time in metro areas to see a dermatologist for a routine skin exam was 32 days, which could explain why millennials – even those with a family history of skin cancer – are not making appointments with dermatologists. “Access is a concern in the field of dermatology,” Papier adds.

Of the millennials surveyed, 45% noted that they are prone to develop freckles and moles from sun exposure. This is a risk factor for skin cancer, and yet nearly 20% of these respondents said they do not know what an abnormal freckle or mole looks like. “Part of the reason for developing Aysa was to give individuals tools for understanding their skin issues at home,” explains Dr. Papier.

Users of the Aysa app can take or select a picture of a rash or skin lesion, and through machine learning and artificial intelligence, Aysa is able to analyze the photo and provide guidance on next steps, whether trying an over-the-counter cream or ointment, making an appointment with a dermatologist, or seeking immediate medical attention from an emergency room. Dr. Papier says, “We want to do a better job of educating people to help them make good health decisions.”

Survey Methodology

The findings are based on a Pollfish survey of more than 1,500 millennials in the United States.

How Safe is Your Sunscreen?

The US Food and Drug Administration wants to test your sunscreen; should you be concerned?

Whether you slather on lotion or mist yourself with sprays, sunscreen is an important tool to protect your skin from the sun. This tool is actually an over-the-counter drug that the FDA regulates, and it does contain chemicals. Now, the agency wants more testing and data on what goes into your sunscreen.

What is considered safe? Should I check my label?

There are 16 active ingredients in sunscreen that the FDA can classify.1 Two ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) are considered safe and effective. Two others (PABA and tolamine salicylate) are not safe and effective. Don’t worry, though – you don’t have to check your sunscreen label for PABA and tolamine salicylate, because they are banned already from sunscreens sold in the United States.2

As for the other 12 ingredients, the FDA wants more information before coming to a definite conclusion, which is why they’ve proposed more testing.

If my sunscreen has any of the 12 ingredients, should I throw it out?

Absolutely not. These ingredients have been in sunscreen for years. The FDA isn’t saying those ingredients aren’t safe; the agency just wants to be thorough. In fact, in the recent proposal, the FDA recommends continuing to use the sunscreen you have.

When will this testing take place?

This is still a proposal. The FDA guidelines are open for comment until the end of May. Then, the agency has until the end of November to send the proposal to Congress. If approved, testing could take years.

What should I do in the meantime?

Practice good sun protection (American Academy of Dermatology recommendations):

  • Seek shade.
  • Dress to protect yourself from the sun.
  • Apply sunscreen to skin that isn’t covered by clothing with SPF 30 or higher.

The American Academy of Dermatology has a number of resources for you to check out, including How to Select Sunscreen and How to Apply. If you have any other questions or concerns, check with a board-certified dermatologist.


1US Food and Drug Administration. Sunscreen: How to help protect your skin from the sun. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm239463.htm. Last updated February 21, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019.

2American Academy of Dermatology. Is sunscreen safe?

https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent/is-sunsceen-safe. Accessed April 26, 2019.

The Best Alternatives To Tanning

It’s no secret that tanning of any kind is bad for your health. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation1, using tanning beds before age 30 increases your risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent. In fact, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies tanning beds in the same category as other hazardous substances such as asbestos and plutonium. So, what are you to do if you still want that sun-kissed glow without the health risks? Here are a few sunless alternatives to tanning beds:


Spray Tans

Most sunless tanners use the coloring agent DHA (dihydroxyacetone) to produce a darker skin color2. This ingredient causes a reaction involving the outermost, dead cell layer of the skin. Combining with the skin’s amino acids, it results in a “tan” that is much safer than a UV tan.

A large concern with sunless tanning is that a fake tan might leave your skin looking unnatural. However, if done right, a fake tan can look just like the real thing. Here are a few tips from Allure3 on how to prepare for your spray tan and keep it natural looking and long-lasting:


  • Prepare yourself. The morning before your appointment, use a nonoily scrub to exfoliate the skin, and coat scabs and scars with Vaseline.
  • If you use a retinoid or take Accutane, talk to your doctor about how this might affect your spray tan results.
  • If you’re using a spray tan booth, put a light layer of lotion on the soles of your feet, between your toes and fingers, and on your palms, knees, and elbows. This will help ensure a more even tan.
  • Avoid letting your skin get wet for eight hours and exfoliating for at least a week.
  • Moisturize generously after you shower.



At-home tanning products come in many forms: lotions, towelettes, and creams to name a few! With so many choices, it can be intimidating and difficult to figure out which sunless tanning method is the best.  WebMD has a helpful list of different types of self-tanning and what each is best for4:


  • Self-tanning moisturizers: With a lower concentration of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in sunless tanners, these gradually build a sun-kissed glow with daily use.
    Best for: Achieving just a hint of color; a good starting step for novice self-tanners.
  • Tanning towelettes: Presoaked with self-tanner, these sheets just need to be unfolded and swiped across skin for an even glow.
    Best for: Keeping up your glow on vacation. These pads are stress-free. “It’s almost impossible to apply too much product with tanning wipes,” says Tamar Vezirian, a New York makeup artist who runs a tanning salon and mobile tanning service. She’s helped some models in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue get their golden glow.
  • Self-tanning lotions and creams: The workhorse of sunless tanning, these formulas are often tinted so you can see if you’ve missed any spots.
    Best for: Both practiced and beginner tanners. Because these formulas don’t absorb into the skin instantly, you have a few extra seconds to blend.
  • Sunless mousses and gels: Lightweight and fast drying, these formulas are easy to layer, so you can build coverage or customize for contouring.
    Best for: Experienced self-tanners. You need to blend fast before the color is absorbed.
  • Do-it-yourself tanning sprays: The fastest way to cover large areas. Technique matters: You need to apply evenly from about 6 inches away in a circular motion.
    Best for: Hitting hard-to-reach areas like your back. “These dispense just a light mist of color so you can achieve results that are like an airbrushed tan,” Vezirian says.

The benefits of a sunless tan are immense. Choosing to avoid UV tanning will help avoid many skin issues such as wrinkles, age spots, premature aging, and skin cancer. Don’t fear the “fake” tan — embrace healthier skin.

Everyone will likely face a skin issue in their lifetime. With the snap of a picture, Aysa is here to answer all of your questions and give guidance on what to do next. Download our app today!




  1. Why is tanning dangerous? Melanoma Research Foundation. https://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/preventing-melanoma/why-is-tanning-dangerous. Accessed April 19, 2019.
  2. Venosa A. Fake it to Make it: Sunless Tanning Explained. Sun & Skin News From The Skin Cancer Foundation. https://blog.skincancer.org/2017/08/29/sunless-tanning-explained/?utm_source=skincancer.org&utm_campaign=blog. Published August 29, 2017. Accessed April 19, 2019.
  3. Pergament D. How to Get the Best Spray Tan. Allure. https://www.allure.com/story/get-the-best-spray-tan. Published May 26, 2009. Accessed April 19, 2019.
  4. Levitt S. Sunless Tanners: How to Choose and Use Them. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/sunless-tanner#1. Published 2013. Updated October 6, 2014. Accessed April 19, 2019.

Dermatology Times: Digital health and dermatology

(JANUARY 3, 2019) by Steve Xu, M.D., FAAD

What exactly is digital health? The scope and definition of digital health is broadening and now, it seems, digital health is essentially anything that isn’t a drug or traditional medical device. It encompasses hardware (mobile phones, wearable sensors), software (AI, machine learning, mobile phone apps), and digital communication platforms (telemedicine, text, email) to improve health.

For challenging rashes and inflammatory skin diseases, VisualDx released a consumer app in 2018 called Aysa that uses machine learning to identify inflammatory skin conditions and make preliminary recommendations for self-help and treatment. These innovations represent important examples of how digital health is impacting dermatology.

Read Dr. Xu’s full column on Dermatology Times.

Nakisha Wynn: Finally an App to Help with Those Rash Decision: Aysa!

by Nakisha Wynn

How many times have you looked at your kid and noticed a bump, bruise or mysterious rash out of nowhere? It’s happened to me more times that I care to admit, especially with four kids in the house. After seeing it, I usually run to Google and find myself panicking from the results I get. That turns into a wile ride to urgent care just for them to tell me it’s fine. Then there I am again, wishing I hadn’t wasted my time.

Well I won’t be doing that again! Thanks to Aysa.

Everything you need to know about the newest skin rash app: Aysa

The Aysa rash app and symptom checker identifies common skin conditions. Powered by VisualDx, Aysa will analyze your photo and provide immediate answers and guidance.

My oldest son and youngest daughter both suffer from eczema. If I don’t keep a close eye it can turn bad fast! During certain months I really have to stay on top of it. Being outside for little league football and the weather being colder than normal, the winter months usually cause their dry skin to be even drier. I used the Aysa rash app on my daughter to see if a dry patch on her back just needed moisturizer or if it indeed was her eczema flaring up. I was impressed with how easy it was to use.

Here’s how Aysa works:

  1. Snap a picture of the affected area on your skin.
  2. Answer a few questions about the symptoms.
  3. Aysa provides personalized guidance on what to do next.
  4. Take action on the reliable results. This can include self care, a call with a medical provider or help locating the closest specialist.

Aysa draws on the experience of 47,000 physicians and nurses and more than 137,000,000 health searches to be your trusted digital skin advisor. You can use it knowing that you are getting accurate information regarding your symptoms and make an educated decision based on that.

Aysa was impressive when I tried it on my teenagers skin too. My son is 14, plays all kinds of sports, and is at the peak age for acne! So I wanted to see what Aysa would say about the tiny bumps on his forehead. Imagine my surprise when it gave me the result of common acne. It said that acne was caused by hormonal changes, overgrowth of normal skin bacteria and the overproduction of natural oils. That was reassuring for my son, because I always joke that it’s from not cleaning his room. I need an app for that!

Oh all the times I couldn’t used this app in my life (insert weary face emoji). But when you know better you do better right?! Now I know the Aysa rash app has got me covered on all my skin concerns.

Aysa is available on iPhone and can be downloaded in the Apple Store.

Boston Moms Blog: Aysa – An App to Allay Your Child’s Skin Condition Woes

See How Aysa Works

by Jenny Berk

We love apps. My kids have Twisty Road, Boggle, Helix Jump, and their favorite, 2048.

But they were a bit perplexed when I downloaded an app for them – for all of us, really – about skin care.

Yep, there is an app for all things skin conditions. It’s like a dermatological dream! Except I learned early on that my littles don’t have the same fascination about all things medical, especially gross skin medical stuff, that I do. Don’t get me wrong, they love to tell me about all their various bug bites, blisters, rashes, and random marks, but they just don’t want to see it and talk about it UP CLOSE.

I was excited to try Aysa because it seemed like the perfect little accessory to my daily dose of checking my kiddos’ skin stuff. I finally had an answer to their daily question. “Mommy, what is this red itchy blotch on my wrist?” “Well, honey, let’s take a picture through Aysa and find out!”

First up was my daughter Mira. She has had a few little bumps near her eyes for a while. I’ll save the reader the gory details like the pus on the top of each bump. We can leave that for another day. I knew, from sending her to the MD a while back, that it was molluscum contagiosum but wanted to test out the super skin sleuthing of Aysa.

Sure enough, Aysa got the diagnosis correct!

The cool thing about this app is that you only have to take a picture of the affected area and then you answer a few questions (such as whether it’s itchy, what color it is, and if there is an associated fever or other symptoms). Then the app gets to work through machine learning and its deep knowledge base. When the results come in, the app shows you several options of what it could be, and the user picks which it is closest to based on photos and associated symptoms. You can set up user profiles for each person in your household.

Obviously, one should not use this app to diagnose, and the company is clear about following up with a professional MD to get a proper diagnosis. But it actually helps reduce some anxiety about what it COULD be. As a former WebMD user, I know it’s easy to get frightened by all the would-bes and what-ifs.

All in all, I thought it was a very well designed and user-friendly app with the possibility for daily use, depending on your family’s own level of hypochondriasis. I kid, I kid.

I created “case studies” for all three of my girls, and we had a lot of fun with it. Two of my girls loved researching the myriad skin conditions Aysa provides info about. (My middle daughter, who, much like her father, gets queasy looking at anything medical, looked a little nauseous when prurigo nodularis popped up as the first option. She almost dry heaved upon gazing at photos of congenital melanocytic nevus and actually ran to her room after seeing what lichen simplex chronicus was all about.)

While I recognize my girls probably won’t end up being dermatologists when they grow up, we enjoyed the process and will definitely continue to use the app – for the whole family.

I’ll just refrain from showing them the results.

(The app is currently available for free download at askaysa.com or through your app store on your iPhone.)

AI holds great promise for visual fields like dermatology, but faces many challenges

See How Aysa Works

by Jonah Comstock (NOVEMBER 14, 2018)

Computer vision has great promise for helping to democratize fields like wound care, dermatology and more. However, as companies explore this potential, they’re also discovering a number of challenges to overcome.

Companies like VisualDx, which have a robust dataset from years in the CDS space, have to balance patient privacy consideration. “In our professional tool, when a doctor takes a pictures of a patient the image is analyzed on the phone and the image is dumped,” CEO Art Papier told MobiHealthNews. “So we never see the image because of confidentiality. So I think on the consumer side there’s an opt-in where the user can click a box where they say they’re willing to train data and can create a feedback loop and start training the system. We’ll be getting going with that this year.”

Learn more about the challenges AI face in the healthcare space by reading the full MobiHealthNews article.