Using your compression garment whilst away on holiday
Make sure that you pack your compression garments when going away on your travels. Pack a couple of garments so that you have one to wash and one to wear: Check carefully to make sure that it fits correctly before you set off and take an old garment with you too to wear if you go swimming. It is important that your garment provides the correct level of compression and you wear it daily. If it is too hot to wear your compression garment, wearing night compression may be an alternative. Hear Kelly’s story to learn about her experience with night compression.
If you normally bandage yourself, ask your specialist about a wrap system. You may find this easier to apply and you can use it in the evening or overnight. Have a look at our feature about compression in Ask Elvy for more information.
Water sprays are very useful in the hot weather. Put some water in a small spray bottle and store it in the fridge. Simply spray your compression garment with water before you put it on in order to keep your limb cool. In general, water is not harmful to compression garments.
Some patients find it useful to store their compression garment inside a plastic bag in the fridge overnight so that it is cool to reapply in the morning.
Buy a gentle handwash or one recommended by the manufacturer to wash your compression daily and keep it fresh.
Some sleeves give a reasonable amount of SPF protection but don’t forget to apply sun cream to all other areas regularly. There are also some garments that have a high cotton content which may be more comfortable to wear in the hot weather. Flat-knit garments are also more comfortable to wear in the heat as the weave is more mesh like and is cooler to wear.
Extremes of temperature
Both sunny and snowy destinations can expose the body to extremes of temperature and it’s important that you take care of your skin accordingly. Extremes of temperatures affect the circulatory and lymphatic systems and swelling can fluctuate during the day. So, figure out the time of day that’s best for you and factor this in when choosing to go on excursions or doing activities. Extreme heat also exists in Jacuzzis and hot tubs. Discuss the use of these with your therapist before you go away for advice but in general limit exposure to less than 15 minutes. Advice would be to keep the affected area as cool as possible.
- Continue to follow the skin care regime recommended by your healthcare professional, applying moisturiser regularly especially when you have been out in the sun. Apply at least once per day but especially at night so that the cream can be absorbed whilst you are not wearing your garment.
- Sea salt and chlorine can make the skin dry. If you go swimming, shower afterwards, cleaning the skin thoroughly and put on moisturiser as above, during the evening or before going to bed.
- When exfoliating, avoid waxing any affected areas and take extra care or avoid using wet razors too. It is safer to use an electric razor or hair removal creams Ensure that you dry between your toes after being in the pool or in the sea to avoid skin problems and fungal infections in these areas. Check regularly for any cuts or scratches and treat as soon as possible with basic first aid.
- If you have lymphoedema in your leg/ feet do not walk on the beach or around the pool without wearing shoes. Wear some plastic, waterproof shoes to protect your feet and reduce the risk of getting cuts, scratches and possible infections.
Insect bites and mosquitoes
Wherever we are, there are little insect friends who love to pay us attention and even bite. Bites illicit a local reaction and may cause inflammation and redness. Subsequent itching may cause us to scratch the area. If the skin is broken as a result of this irritation, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. In general, prevention is better than cure and so choose your destination carefully and avoid areas that are renowned for having biting insect life! Use an insect repellent or spray when going out especially if you are visiting countryside or going out in the evening.
Managing infection/cellulitis on holiday
If it has been advised and prescribed by your own GP or healthcare professional, pack a prescription of antibiotics to take with you Know the contact details of a local GP near to where you are staying on holiday Know the address and directions to the local hospital with an Accident and Emergency department If you suspect that you have an infection or cellulitis episode it may lead to an increase in your swelling. If you do not have antibiotics with you, visit a doctor or A&E as soon as possible, as it may be possible to limit complications. A nurse or doctor will treat the infection/cellulitis with oral antibiotics. If the infection is more severe a hospital stay and intravenous antibiotics may be required, it is important that you tell the doctor or nurse your diagnosis of lymphoedema Finally, when you return home after a cellulitis infection, see your healthcare professional (Lymphoedema Specialist) to determine if you need a new course of therapy or a new garment as the limb measurements may have changed
Our bodies love a bit of sunshine but too much can burn the skin causing painful, inflamed areas. It is important to apply a good quality sun cream with the best possible sun protection factor. Sit in the shade or cover at risk or affected areas with hat, long-sleeved shirt or loose trousers. Follow standard advice whilst being in the sun and avoid direct sunlight either side of midday because the risk of getting sunburn is too risky. In general, you should spend your time sitting or lying in the shade during these periods.
Dehydration - what shall I drink while I am away?
Drinking plenty of water helps to keep the body hydrated and the skin in a good condition. Depending on where you are on holiday, you may need to drink more water to avoid dehydration. Combine glasses of water with any other beverages taken.
Being active on holiday
Be careful when undertaking any extra activities whilst you are on holiday, especially if they are new to you. Doing more or more than your normal activities may cause pain and swelling and even cellulitis in a lymphoedema limb. It is important for you to stay active but take note of how long you have been playing tennis or golf, for example, and try not to do more activity than you are used to. Try and exercise in the coolest part of the day and wear your compression garment when you do.
Which is best; swimming in the pool or in the sea?
Our blog about exercise in water covers everything you need to know about this fantastic activity. But one thing to remember is that the salt in the sea or chlorine in the pool may affect the fibres of your compression garment and interfere with how it works. Therefore, it would be better to take off your compression before swimming or use an old garment instead.
If you do not like swimming but feel the need to cool off an affected limb, jump into a cool shower instead! If you are on a stay at home vacation, then there is no need to lose out. Why not purchase a paddling pool and take a dip to cool your limbs down.
If you have any travel tips that you find useful and want to share with others. Login to LymphConnect, visit the community forum and start chatting and sharing.
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Claudia Lymphoedema patient