LYMPHEDEMA AND WINTER
Lymphedema can be easier to deal with in the cooler months of winter. Bug bites and sunburns, which can be extremely dangerous for those with lymphedema, are much less likely for those living in the northern hemisphere. The heat and humidity that makes compression garments difficult to wear in the warmer months is not so much of an issue in these cooler months. This leads to more compliance wearing compression garments, which results in better control of the progression of your condition.
Winter, however, can present challenges of its own. Cold and gray days of winter can be hard on all of us. This year is especially challenging because we have to deal with the virus and many indoor activities are being restricted. How best can we deal with the challenges of winter, while still embracing its benefits?
MOVING THAT LYMPH DURING THE WINTER
It’s so much easier to stay home and stay warm in those winter months, isn’t it? If only the sun would come out today, it would be a bit easier to get outside – go for that walk. I do believe getting outside in the winter as often as you can is beneficial for your body as well as your spirits. However, there are days that may be too cold or too dangerous, as it is now in my area with all the ice. Movement is still extremely important for those dealing with lymphedema. Whether you use a treadmill or a rebounder, possibly some simple yoga or stretching, even walking up and down stairs, it is important to check with your healthcare professional first and wear your compression garments. Moving your body and deep breathing moves lymph. Exercise is beneficial for lymphedema, but it must be in moderation, as well as low in intensity and duration.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Although it’s important to keep moving during the winter months, it’s also important not to overdo it. When snow shoveling or participating in activities that you are not used to, be sure to use moderation. Go slowly, take frequent rest and allow for recovery time. Don’t push through: pay attention to your body. Feelings of heaviness or fullness, pain, aches or swelling are all signs to watch for when changing your level of activity beyond what you are used to. Symptoms that last more than a day or two should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
COMFORT AND PROTECTION DURING THE WINTER WITH LYMPHEDEMA
If you are lucky enough to get outdoors, remember to dress for safety as well as warmth. Extreme cold, much like excessive heat, can worsen lymphedema symptoms. Clothes should never be restrictive or tight, which could worsen lymphedema. Layering clothing is a good way to provide adequate warmth without being too restrictive. Also be sure to wear appropriate footwear to get around safely. A fall in icy conditions can be extremely dangerous for an affected limb.
WINTER SKIN CARE FOR LYMPHEDEMA
Skin care is especially important during these winter months with dry indoor heat. Skin may become dry and itchy or even cracked or bleeding due to lack of moisture. When bathing or showering, use a high quality moisturizing soap. Dry your skin well and use a low-pH lotion free of alcohol and fragrances to maintain the moisture of the skin. Look at your limbs on a daily basis. Any open wounds or oozing of the affected limb should be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible. Infections are common with lymphedema and can worsen rapidly.
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER
Mental health is just as important during these winter months as physical health. Although we may be limited by the virus at this time, we can still reach out. Call a friend or find a support group, either through your health care facility or social media. You are not alone! Together we are stronger and by helping others, we in turn help ourselves.
EMBRACE THE SEASON
Enjoy this beautiful season, but do so wisely. Each season has its benefits as well as it challenges. Which will you choose to focus on the benefits or the challenges? Embrace the quiet stillness, the soft light and the wonder and magic of this season. Soon it will be spring and we can then embrace the hope and the beauty of new life that this season brings. What is your favorite season?
What hobbies and activities do you especially enjoy during the winter months?