Managing Lymphedema in the Heat
by Michelle Beauchene DPT, CLT
The snow has melted, the overcast days are fading into the background, and the sun is out! June 21st marks the first day of the summer and it, along with warmer temperatures, is fast approaching. You may be looking forward to sunny weather with friends outside but the increase in temperature can also lead to increase in lymphedema symptoms. However, you can prepare yourself for the (hopeful) onslaught of sun and heat to mitigate any negative effects. What can you do?
1. Skin Care: Protect your skin from sunburns by wearing long sleeves and/or pants. For exposed skin, sunscreen daily and reapply as needed throughout the day. Often, lotions with SPF 15 are sufficient to protect from a few incidental minutes in the sun throughout the day, but if you are planning to spend a lot of time outdoors or in/out of water, opt for a “water resistant” brand to ensure your sunscreen doesn’t melt away.
2. Compression: Prevent your edema from worsening throughout the day by wearing appropriate compression. If daytime garments are intolerable due to heat conditions, consider nighttime application. Talk to your lymphedema therapist to find the best garment for you – there are light and cool options.
3. Ahhhh Air Conditioning: On especially warm days, consider spending more time in cooler locations. Air conditioning is a welcome luxury for those with lymphedema in the summertime heat. It may be worth purchasing a small unit for your bedroom space to help with sleep at night if this an issue for you.
4. Elevation: Let gravity do the work for you and elevate your affected limb whenever possible to aid in the reduction of lymph fluid in your problem area. Make it easy for yourself: for example – set up a foot stool under your desk at work and kick your feet up! Or, set a phone alarm to do your arm exercises twice a day, reaching above your head.
5. Self Care: Complete your self-manual lymphatic drainage sequence and prescribed lymphedema exercises regularly, and possibly with increasing frequency if symptoms increase with the heat.
If you have any further questions regarding lymphedema management in the heat, feel free to contact us.