Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Lymphedema Hazards

Being outdoors in the summer can pose more problems than just overheating. Sunburn, prickly heat rashes, and insect bites and stings are also potential problems.

An insect repellent is a good idea but some of the more effective ones contain DEET, which you may not want to have on your skin. Health food stores will have natural repellents, usually with citronella as the active ingredient, and these can be less detrimental to your skin. However, you should avoid putting insect repellent on your skin and then wearing a compression garment over it. That may cause skin reactions and can also damage the fabric of your garment.
No matter which repellent you use, some insect bites probably are inevitable. Be prepared to treat them immediately to lessen the histamine effect, which can cause increased swelling in that area. Benadryl or hydrocortisone creams are two treatment options for insect bites. An ointment with aluminum sulfate as the active ingredient can also help decrease the effects of bites and stings. Treat an insect bite like any break in the skin on your limb at risk. Wash and dry the area completely and apply antibiotic cream to the area.
If you are going camping or hiking, be sure to take along a specialized first aid kit. The kit should include alcohol wipes to clean off any skin break, antibiotic cream for application on the skin, and bandages to protect the area. If your doctor agrees, you may also include antibiotics in your kit so that you can then start on a course of antibiotics without delay if your limb should become infected (hot, red, swollen, and/or painful) while you are away from home.
Wear clothing that will protect you from accidental scratches, poison ivy, etc. If you have leg lymphedema, be especially careful to wear shoes that fit well and will not blister your feet. If you have arm lymphedema, be careful not to carry heavy backpacks or other heavy loads.
Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, not only because of the possibility of overheating, but because sunburn will place an extra burden on your lymphatic system and can damage your superficial lymphatics. Skin that has been radiated may remain sensitive to the sun long after radiation treatment has ended. Also bear in mind that you can sometimes get a sunburn even when wearing a compression garment. If your limb is going to be exposed to the sun (for example when you are swimming and do not have your compression garment on) be sure to use a sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) of 20-30+. And if you are going in water, wear the waterproof kind.

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