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.