Tips for Managing Lymphedema During the Dog Days of Summer

Dandelion in sunshineSummer can be a trigger for pain and swelling in the arms and legs for people who have lymphedema. Fortunately, keeping this chronic condition in check during the hottest part of summer is possible, according to occupational therapists.

"Summer is a time when people look forward to being outdoors, swimming and traveling—all which can be difficult for someone with lymphedema," says Robin Newman, the clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an occupational therapist at NorthShore University Health System. "Occupational therapy practitioners focus on participation in meaningful activities or occupations and work to help our patients minimize the risk of developing or increasing their lymphedema."

To combat the accumulation of lymphatic fluid that is the root cause of the swelling, Newman offers this advice:

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Do not eat salty foods that can increase swelling.
  • Decrease exposure to the sun, and stay in air-conditioned areas whenever possible.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing, especially around the parts affected by lymphedema.
  • Compression garments are useful when flying. Don’t forget to wash compression garments frequently to remove sweat and sunscreen.
  • When travelling by car, stop often to stretch your legs.
  • Choose suitcases and carry-on bags with wheels to avoid straining the arms.
  • Pack a first aid kit when participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and cycling.
  • Make sure that shoes fit properly to avoid cuts and scrapes.
  • Wear gloves when working outside to avoid cuts and scrapes on your hands.