Tips & Tricks

In hot water!

Dipping a toe into the effects of water temperature on lymphedema.

Living with lymphedema, there are a lot of things we need to consider that we probably didn’t give much thought to before. One of those things is temperature, specifically water temperature.

Everyone enjoys a nice hot shower or a long soak in the tub, but have you ever noticed what happens to your affected limb afterwards? If you’re anything like me, you may see some extra swelling or redness. This happens because of vasodilation, the expansion of blood vessels. Vasodilation increases the amount of fluid moving out of the blood vessels and into the tissues, which, in areas affected by lymphedema, causes an increase in swelling.

If you aren’t prepared to switch to cold showers, have no fear! You can still use warm water, but with some precautionary measures: it is recommended to limit your time to no more than 15 minutes, with the water temperature at no more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius). 

What about hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas, you ask? Well, it’s a good idea to ask your physician or lymphedema therapist if you can participate in these activities in the first place. If you have the go-ahead, it’s still best to avoid these if you can, but if you chose to partake anyway, moderation is key. These activities increase your core body temperature, which can worsen your lymphedema swelling, so you should limit your exposure to less than 15 minutes.

When using a hot tub, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the tub is clean. A safe tub should be clean and properly maintained with anti-bacterial agents, such as bromines. This is SUPER important because hot water breeds bacteria, and even a minor break in your skin could start a cellulitis infection.
  • Never soak in a tub that has a strong chlorine smell, or foam or scum floating on the surface. This means the chemicals are imbalanced and therefore not capable of controlling the bacteria in the water.
  • Remain hydrated. Keep your water bottle close by, and take frequent sips to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid soaking your affected limb in water temperatures above 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius). Anything above this temperature can increase the swelling of your limb.
  • Do not stay in the hot tub for more than 15 minutes.
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you are beginning to feel really warm or uncomfortable, get out of the water!
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol expands your blood vessels, which can make your swelling worse. If you’re thirsty, stick with drinking water.

Water, at the proper temperature, can be a huge help to lymphedema. Swimming, for instance, is a great exercise for lymphies as it helps move the fluid in your affected limb. When in pools, though, you still need to pay a little attention to the temperature. When doing gentle exercises, water should be around 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) or slightly less. When doing more strenuous exercises such as swimming laps, water should be much cooler – usually between 68-86 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30 degrees Celsius).

With all that said, don’t be afraid of water! Just be mindful and pay attention to your body. As soon as you start to feel uncomfortable or that your limb is swelling, it’s time to get out and towel off!

The above information is collected from Lymphnotes.com.

6 comments on “In hot water!

  1. Dawn, RN

    good points!

  2. There are a few issues that are important to all to be aware of whether you are dealing with lymphedema or not. The article mentions bromides (also found in bread), chlorine and we need to include fluoride. These three chemicals are found in tap water, swimming pools, hot tubs and chlorine/fluoride are in your shower water every day. Why do you need to be aware of these 3 chemicals? All three bind to your thyroid’s iodine receptor sites; rendering your thyroid unable to function properly without its necessary iodine. Having a healthy functioning thyroid is at the base of being healthy and able to heal our body from the inside out. The thyroid is a like a lock and key system. The thyroid is the lock and the iodine is the key. If the keyhole is filled with fluoride, chlorine or bromide there is no room for the iodine to unlock the thyroid for proper functioning.

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  6. Neverminded the hot water… I live in a country where temperatures are a constant 40degrees for about 7 months out of 12… and the swelling is always at its worst!
    Life just goes on! Life just has to go on!

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