Baby, it’s hot outside! We all know that managing lymphedema gets a lot trickier during summer, but don’t let the temperature get you down! We’ve put together a list of the best tips and tricks from lymphies all around the world to help you beat the heat and stay cool during the hot summer months.
1Freeze your compression materials
This is a wonderful idea that can make bandaging a lot more tolerable in the warmer months. “One hour before I wrap my leg, I put all my bandages, ankle moulds and foams into the freezer. When it comes time to apply them, they are really cold and the cooling effect lasts for a good 45 minutes after they are applied. It’s a nice and soothing on the skin, especially at the end of a long day standing!” (Lauren K, Australia).
Make sure that your bandaging materials are not wet when you apply them, as this could lead to skin problems like fungal infections.
2Wet your compression garments
Dampening your compression garments can give you much-needed relief particularly if you are in a hot outdoor space. You can either mist your garment with a spray bottle or completely saturate them with water (salt or fresh water is fine!). Avoid wetting your compression garments with chlorinated water as this will destroy the integrity of the materials.
“It was a very hot and humid summer night and we were eating dinner at a beachside restaurant. I was so hot and uncomfortable in my compression garment and nothing seemed to be able to cool me down. I ended up taking a few pieces of ice from the wine bucket and applied them to the outside of my garment, around my ankle and calf, and let them melt into the fabric. It felt so nice and fresh and I was able to regain some comfort and enjoy the night out!” (Ingrid B, United Kingdom).
Make sure that you are not wearing a wet garment for long periods of time because this can lead to chafing or skin rashes. People with open wounds, skin irritations (like eczema) or sensitive skin should also avoid wetting their garments.
3Ice, Ice, Baby!
Ice towels, ice packs and cold packs are great tools for cooling down uncomfortable lymphie limbs. Ice packs can help reduce inflammation, swelling and relieve pain if you are really struggling with the heat. This is a good alternative to wetting your garments (see the previous tip!) and is good for people who have sensitive skin or open wounds.
Make sure you always place a protective barrier, like a towel, between yourself and the source of cold to prevent direct contact with the skin.
4Place a fan under your desk at work
Most offices are air-conditioned these days but you can still get hot and sweaty sitting on a chair all day or standing serving customers. Get a little bit of relief by investing in a small fan and placing it under your desk. A huge variety of options exist (electrical, battery operated and even USB powered fans) that will suit a range of work environments.
“When I was working at the bank, I would place a small fan at my feet and mist my compression garment with a spray water bottle. I felt so much more comfortable and my colleagues didn’t even notice!” (Anne, Texas USA).
If you don’t want to mist your compression garment, place a bowl of ice in front of the fan- this will create a cool breeze as the air passes over it and keep your limb icy fresh!
5Exercise in the water
Keeping motivated to exercise regularly gets hard when the temperatures soar. Sweating it out in the gym in your compression garments can become extremely uncomfortable and make you overheat. So why not swap the gym for the swimming pool or ocean? Any kind of aqua fitness is good (particularly aqua cycling or aqua aerobics classes) as well as power walking in waist-deep water. The added bonus is that you can have some compression-free time, as water puts the same pressure on your tissues as a compression garment does! Also, if powerwalking in the ocean, wearing a pair of aqua shoes could be a good idea to avoid stepping on anything sharp or spikey in the sand.
If water exercise isn’t your thing, find an air-conditioned gym and try exercising in a less physically demanding way, such as walking on a treadmill or cycling. For those who prefer to exercise outdoors, do your training during the cooler parts of the day and be sure to take frequent breaks if you want to continue doing high-intensity workouts.
6Wear open-ended compression garments
For people who don’t suffer from swelling in the fingers or toes, try opting for a pair of open-ended compression garments. These types of garments are available in most compression classes and allow air to circulate freely around your fingers or toes.
This option may not work for you if wearing your toe-cap or finger glove is essential, so instead, try finding compression garments that are made of breathable fabrics.
7Easy, Breezy Summer Clothing
Dressing to stay cool doesn’t mean you have to limit your wardrobe choices! It simply means selecting clothes that follow a few simple guidelines.
As explained by Australian fashion designer Lee Mathews, “Spend money on clothing made from high-quality natural fibres – and in summer this means linen, silks and cotton. They will keep you cool, dry quickly, allow your body to breathe and with proper care will last you seasons to come.”
Avoid dark clothing as this tends to absorb the rays and guard the heat, making you feel hotter. It’s best to stick to light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and avoiding any accessories that may restrict your circulation.
8Put a cold towel over your limb
Place a slightly dampened towel in the freezer for 30 minutes and allow to completely cool down. Once it feels fresh, remove it from the freezer and place over the affected limb. It can be nice to combine this with elevating your leg to further enhance the benefits of reducing swelling.
9Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking adequate amounts of fluid can prevent dehydration and lower your core temperature quickly. It is generally recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals approximately 2 litres, or half a gallon daily.
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding some different ingredients to make it more palatable and interesting- like a squeeze of lemon or herbal teas. Milk is also a great choice to keep you hydrated as well as juices, sports drinks and coconut water.
10Practice deep yogic breathing
This is something which us lymphies love- a good deep breathing session to move the lymph fluid! But did you know that deep breathing can also cool the body and add moisture to your system? There are two specific breathing techniques that are used in yoga practice which are called Sitali (The Cooling Breath) and Sitkari (Teeth Hissing).
How to practice Sitali– The Cooling Breath
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Stick out your tongue as far as possible without straining it, and roll it so that the sides of the tongue are facing upwards.
- Inhale for four counts through the rolled tongue, like sipping air with a straw.
- Then close your mouth and exhale for six counts through your nostrils. This is one round of the cooling breath.
As you inhale, the air is cooled down by the moist tongue, and you’ll feel the air being colder when entering your body. You can do this for 10 rounds to start with, slowly progressing up to 40 or 50 rounds.
How to practice Sitkari (for those who cannot roll their tongue!)
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air.
- Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
- Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.
- Repeat up to 20 times.
If you are suffering from any kind of respiratory problem, such as asthma or bronchitis, or if you have a heavy cold, it’s best to skip this practice.