Careful skin care is important for those suffering with lymphedema.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
This year, we’ve already seen record high temperatures in the Southeastern parts of the United States. Summertime heat presents many challenges for those of us suffering from primary or secondary lymphedema. Having lymphedema doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the glorious sunshine, but being outside does mean we need to take precautions to protect our affected limbs. Here are some helpful tips on how to survive the summer heat:
1. Summer brings with it many outdoor activities. In the sweltering summer months, insects are very active. If you have lymphedema, it’s important to wear insect repellant to protect from bites or stings. Try to choose natural insect repellants and avoid products containing DEET. Any type of injury to an affected limb can result in bigger problems and exacerbate the affected extremity. If you do suffer a bite, be sure to wash and dry the bite carefully before applying any type of antibiotic ointment or cream.
2. When it’s hot outside, your affected limb is more prone to swell. Try to stay indoors as much as possible and stay cool. If you have to be outside, try to do it during the early morning hours or in the late evening when it’s cooler outside. Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day, usually between the hours of 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
3. Stay well-hydrated. Drinking lots of water will help you stay cool and help regulate your body temperature.
4. Try to avoid salty foods that help your body retain fluid.
5. Try to wear very loose, non-restrictive clothing. Light colors reflect heat and will help you stay cooler. Cotton or cotton blends allow air to flow and circulate more freely than other materials. Watch your skin and check for increased swelling or indentions which could indicate fluid buildup.
6. Be sure to wear sunscreen anytime you’ll be outdoors. Even on overcast days, it’s possible to get burned. Wear your compression garment but remember, even with a garment on, it’s possible to get burned.
7. Always check your skin for open wounds or sores. If you notice any break in the skin, it’s important to take care of it promptly to prevent infection. Don’t go into the water with an open wound as this would invite fungal or bacterial infection.
8. Protect your skin from the drying effects of chlorine if you go swimming. Applying a moisturizing lotion before and after exposure to the water will help.
9. Be sure to wear your compression garment while swimming, if possible. If you prefer not to wear a garment in the pool, be sure to slip one on as soon as you get out of the water. It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice regarding the use and wear of your compression garments.
10. Showering after swimming is important. Dry off after showering to prevent moisture between your skin and the compression garment. If your doctor approves, use a light powder with a baking soda or cornstarch base.
11. Wear water shoes in pools or other bodies of water to protect feet from injury.
12. Keep your compression garments clean. Always wash per the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s important to remove sweat, dead skin and any sort of skin creams or sprays that might damage the garment.
13. Avoid lifting heavy objects with your affected limb. Follow the guidelines provided by your medical professional regarding weight limitations.
14. Elevate your affected limb as necessary throughout the day to provide relief from swelling. A cool towel or cloth can be draped over the limb to help cool it down quickly.
15. Be sure to know your limitations. Talk to your doctor regarding your particular situation. Ask questions, even if they seem silly to you. Your doctor wants to make sure you are taking good care of yourself.
By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be sure to have a safer, healthier summer. Always keep an eye on your affected limb and report any significant findings to your medical professional right away.