LYMPHEDEMA DURING THE COLD WINTER MONTHS
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. In addition, the heat and humidity that makes compression garments challenging to wear in the warmer months are not so much of an issue in these cooler months. Cooler temperatures lead to more compliance in wearing compression garments, which results in better control of the progression of your condition.
Winter and lymphedema, however, can present challenges of their own. Cold and gray days of winter can be hard on all of us. So how best can we deal with the challenges while embracing winter’s joys and benefits?
MOVING THAT LYMPH, ESPECIALLY IN WINTER
It’s much easier to stay home warm in those cold winter months. If only the sun came out today, it would be easier to get outside – go for that walk. I believe getting outside in the winter as often as possible benefits your body and your spirits. However, some days may be too cold or too dangerous, as it is now in my area with all the ice. Movement is still essential for those dealing with lymphedema. Whether you use a treadmill or a rebounder, possibly some simple yoga or stretching, or even walking up and down stairs, you must 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 must be moderate and low in intensity and duration.
LISTENING TO YOUR BODY
Although it’s essential to keep moving during the winter, it’s also important not to overdo it. When snow shoveling or participating in activities 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 activity level beyond your comfort level. Discuss with your healthcare provider if you experience symptoms that last more than a day or two.
COMFORT AND PROTECTION
Remember to dress for safety and warmth if lucky enough to get outdoors. Extreme cold, much like excessive heat, can worsen lymphedema symptoms. Clothes should never be restrictive or tight, which could worsen lymphedema. Layering clothing is an excellent 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 hazardous for an affected limb.
WINTER SKINCARE & LYMPHEDEMA
Skincare is essential during these winter months with dry indoor heat. The 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 skin’s moisture. Look at your limbs daily. 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, if not more so, during these winter months. Isolation can be a real problem when it’s challenging to get out. Call a friend or find a support group through your healthcare facility or social media. You are not alone! Together, we are stronger; by helping others, we help ourselves.
EMBRACING THE BEAUTY AND STILLNESS OF WINTER
Enjoy this beautiful season, but do so wisely. Each season has its benefits as well as its difficulties. Which will you choose to focus on, the benefits or the challenges? Mindset is everything! Embrace the quiet stillness, the soft light, and the wonder and magic of this season. Soon it will be spring, and we can embrace the hope and the beauty of new life that this season brings.
What is your favorite season? Can you find the beauty and the magic in this winter season? What hobbies and activities do you especially enjoy during the winter months? I love to read, knit and go for long walks with my dog, Benjamin. How about you?
Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, the information in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice – always consult a licensed healthcare professional for advice on your specific condition.