WHY WARMER TEMPERATURES MATTER
Warmer weather can be a challenge to all of us, especially for those with lymphedema. During the colder seasons, the blood vessels in our skin constrict. The narrow vessels receive less blood and, therefore, less lymph. This allows the lymph system to cope better with the amount of lymph.
During the warmer months, blood vessels expand, causing the amount of fluid that travels out of the blood vessels and into the tissue. With a compromised lymphatic system, the fluid does not always return like it should to the lymph system. This can result in further swelling and edema.
COPING WITH WARMER WEATHER & LYMPHEDEMA
Awareness of the complications presented by warmer temperatures can help prevent further issues and difficulties when living with lymphedema. Staying out of the heat is not always an option; we still want to enjoy our summer. Here are some tips and tricks to help best enjoy the warmer days while caring for your lymphatic system.
- Avoid the hottest part of the day, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time. If you have to be out, try to avoid prolonged exposure.
- When indoors, try to stay in a well-air-conditioned environment.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps to regulate your body temperature.
- Wear non-restrictive, loose, and light clothing to enable better lymphatic flow. It also will keep you cooler and allow your body to breathe.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure, and wear sunscreen when venturing outside.
- Don’t get sunburned. Sunburns can increase swelling as well as trigger an infection. Remember, you can still get sunburn through your compression garment, so wear sunscreen, even undergarments.
- Avoid salty foods, which can cause you to retain fluid and increase swelling.
- Minimize diuretics like alcohol and coffee, which can dehydrate you, especially in the heat.
- Fungal infections are more common in summer, with more time spent in the water and with bare feet. This can cause complications that are uncomfortable for those living with lymphedema. Wear protective footwear around the pool, especially in public showers.
- When swimming, be aware that chlorine can be incredibly drying to the skin. This may cause the skin to crack, leaving you vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Shower after you swim, and dry off completely before putting compression garments on.
- If you do get overheated, elevate your limb. You can also place a cold, wet towel over the affected limb. Elevation helps fluids move back toward your heart.
- Always wear insect repellent outside because a bite on the affected limb can cause additional problems. Avoid products with DEET, however. Check into products at the health food store for natural repellents.
- Even though it’s tempting not to wear your compression garments in warm weather, this isn’t a good idea. It’s essential to protect your affected limb. Your compression garments are one of your best tools for this. Take good care of your garments and replace them when needed.
ENJOYING THE WARMER MONTHS AHEAD
The heat and humidity can be challenging in the next few months. I know the older I get, the less tolerant I seem to be of the heat. With a bit of care and attention, we can enjoy our summer. Being aware can prevent more severe complications in dealing with your lymphedema.
Please note these recommendations are to serve as guidelines only. I recommend consulting with your lymphedema therapist and doctor if you have any concerns or questions about safety in the summer heat.