The heat is on again. In this article we look at how to stay cool and survive the sizzle of another Queensland Summer during the months of sky-high humidity.
If you have lymphoedema it is vitally important that you look after our skin. Why? Because it’s the first line of defence against bacteria, viruses, insects and the elements.
For people with lymphoedema the swelling usually worsens in summer because when the heat is on, the blood vessels supplying the capillaries in the skin dilate.
Increased blood flow to the surface tissues under the skin means that more heat is lost, allowing the body to cool down. This increased blood flow also results in more lymph fluid escaping into the tissues, leading to an increase in swelling if your lymphatic system is impaired.
Increased physical activity also has the same effect. Too much exercise or activity in the heat of the summer sun is not a good combination!
Therefore, it’s important for people with lymphoedema to stay cool in summer to allow the blood vessels to constrict which can help to keep swelling under control.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of day but if it’s unavoidable, wear a hat and slap on some sunscreen to protect your skin. If you get sunburnt, apply some soothing ointment or aloe vera gel to help cool and repair the skin. Or even better, stay in the shade or indoors, turn on fans or air-conditioning and cool off with a nice swim.
Many people with lymphoedema need to wear compression garments and these can feel rather uncomfortable in the summer heat. Yet it is even more important to wear them when it’s hot to keep any increased swelling under control.
TIP: Try spritzing your garments with water while wearing them. The moisture in the garment will simply evaporate and help you to stay cool – if you can catch a breeze, even better!
You may be eligible for a government concession to help with the extra electricity costs needed to cool your home. The Medical Cooling and Heating Electricity Concession Scheme helps people with a chronic medical condition which is aggravated by changes in temperature. You can read more information about the scheme, view the application form and check if you are eligible by clicking here.
Get In The Swim
Hydrotherapy is an excellent form of exercise for people with lymphoedema. If you have been hibernating all winter, now is the time to put on your togs and hit the pool.
Not only does the activity make the muscles work and improve lymph flow, the movement of the body through the water adds a gentle resistance to have a compression and massage effect. If you can’t swim it's not an excuse because walking in water is just as effective.
Summer also brings with it mosquitoes, so apply insect repellent to avoid getting bitten. People with lymphoedema need to be more vigilant against mozzies to avoid scratching bites and risk of infection as a result.
If outdoors use citronella and mozzie coils, avoid dusk, and stay indoors behind insect screens where possible. Treat insect bites with itch cream, antiseptic if infected and watch out for signs of cellulitis.
An impaired lymphatic system makes people with lymphoedema more at risk of developing cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection which can spread quickly if not treated straight away with antibiotics.
To avoid a trip to hospital, look out for the signs of cellulitis including fever, red rashes, increased swelling, skin looking shiny, hard and hot to touch, and feeling like you are coming down with the flu.
Cracked heels and in-between toes make for a perfect place for bacteria to breed and quickly develop into cellulitis, especially if you have leg lymphoedema, so it’s important to also give our feet some TLC.
People who have had cellulitis before will recognise the signs and act quickly as they are more susceptible to repeat infections. For these people it’s smart to have the antibiotic prescription ready so they can act on an attack quickly.
Hopefully these tips will assist you to cope with the summer heat and ensure there are no unexpected set-backs with managing your lymphoedema.
The Lymphoedema Association of Queensland (LAQ) was founded in 1989 with the aim of raising awareness about the condition. A membership-based organisation, LAQ is the trusted resource those with lymphoedema turn to for support when seeking to achieve a better quality of life. Join the LAQ Community and become a Member today!
General Advice Warning: This blog is not designed to replace professional advice. It has been prepared without taking into account your medical situation or needs. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice, in light of your own health objectives and needs before making any decision as to what is appropriate for you.