Have Lymphedema? You Can Still Enjoy Summer

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 12

While summertime means fun in the sun for many, it can be tough on those who have lymphedema. Heat can lead to lymphedema flares and wearing compression garments in 96-degree weather is no fun. Here are some tips that can help you avoid swelling and enjoy the summer.

#1 Use gloves when gardening.

Any kind of irritation can send lymph fluid rushing to the injury and pulling prickly weeds with your bare hands puts you at risk. So wear gloves. If you do get pricked, apply antibiotic ointment promptly.

#2 Apply insect repellent.

Mosquito or other bug bites can be a major problem if you have lymphedema. Apply insect repellent if you go hiking in the woods or sit on the patio during the evening.

#3 Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Sunburn is another problem that can make lymphedema worse. Lather on that sunscreen and use an umbrella for shade.

#4 Wear lightweight long-sleeve shirts and pants.

Protective clothing can reduce the likelihood of injury to the lymphedema area. Sporting goods store often carry clothing with built-in sun protection.

#5 Travel smart.

On flights, wear a compression sleeve to avoid swelling that can be brought on by changes in cabin pressure. Walk around the plane and stop often during long car trips to ensure you don’t stay in the same position for too long.

#6 Avoid backpack straps or heavy tote bags.

Pressure can cut off the circulation of lymph fluid. Opt instead for a suitcase with wheels and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help with heavy bags.

#7 Wear compression garments.

The garments prescribed by your lymphedema therapist may be hot and uncomfortable, but they can prevent the summer heat from aggravating the swelling. Ask your therapist how often you need one. You might just need it just for travel or exercise.

#8 Exercise sensibly.

Build up gradually to strengthen your lymphedema limb to prevent swelling. If you want to take a canoe trip, try short excursions first to see if paddling or kneeling aggravates your lymphedema. Exercise helps move lymph fluid, but use reasonable precautions when trying out a new summer activity.

#9 Enjoy the pool.

Swimming can be a great exercise for lymphedema since the water acts like a compression garment. So don’t be afraid to take a dip this summer.


National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Managing Lymphedema (Patient Version). Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified May 29, 2015. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/lymphedema/lymphedema-pdq#section/_22  Accessed June 7, 2016.