Tips for those with lymphoedema through Christmas and the Winter months.
Lymphoedema is a build up of lymph fluid in the tissues under the skin. People who have lymph nodes removed and/or radiation therapy have a higher risk of lymphoedema or may have already developed lymphoedema. There are also people who have lymphoedema or risk of lymphoedema, as a result of underdeveloped lymphatic systems. Some basic precautions, good hygiene, and careful skin care may help to reduce your risk of lymphoedema or prevent making it worse, by avoiding infections, burns and injuries.
Whether lymphoedema is already present or there is risk of developing lymphoedema, be it your arm, leg or any other area, here are a few tips to help you to take best care during the Christmas season and the chilly winter days.
Christmas is a busy time and all those extra jobs will increase your daily activity and workload. No matter what stage of lymphoedema you might have, even if you are managing the condition well, be careful not to over-tire yourself. Between buying and carrying bulky presents, the turkey, ham etc, plus putting up the decorations, be aware of the extra lifting, pulling and pushing involved. Continue to work at the level that’s right for you and avoid over use of the affected part. Be sure to plan ahead and pace yourself around these extra activities.
If you have family and friends calling, it’s likely that you may be spending more time with cooking and baking. If you’re rushing around, it’s easy to forget usual good habits - remember to wear protective gloves with hot dishes, increased washing up etc and to take good care to avoid any cuts when using sharp utensils. Take care around open fires and lighted candles. If you do burn or cut yourself, treat the wound immediately with antiseptic and cover it if necessary. If the area becomes red, hot and swollen, seek medical advice quickly as it’s very important to avoid more serious infection or cellulitis, which can happen if cuts are not monitored. Be sure to wear slippers or shoes around the house to prevent any foot injuries, as at this time with small toys left around and potential for breakages of glass or crockery, injury can be more likely.
If you’re out and about wear good strong shoes that will keep your feet dry. The fungus that causes athletes foot loves dark, damp places and wet shoes and socks are the perfect habitat for these little guys. If your feet do get wet, be sure to remove the wet shoes and socks when you get home and dry your feet well before putting on cosy slippers.
Cold, windy weather will dry out your skin, so keep your moisturiser close as you may need to adapt your usual routine and apply it more frequently.
The cooler weather may also decrease your tendency to drink water as you might not feel as thirsty when the temperature is lower. Heated homes, work places, shops etc have a drying effect on the body, so it is important to stay hydrated through good fluid intake. This helps to maintain body fluid balance, keep your skin in good condition, flush out toxins and improve the transportation of nutrients through the body. A good rule of thumb is to drink 8 x 250mls glasses, (tall tumbler), of water a day, this will need to be increased if you are very active throughout the day and during exercise.
Winter weather and cosy homes are all the temptation you need to avoid taking exercise! Physical activity is essential for all the family so make daily exercise a family affair through the holiday season, everybody benefits and you help to keep your lymphoedema controlled.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Health New Year!