Tips for keeping lymphedema garments cool?


Question from Pik: What do you suggest for keeping cool in our daytime compression garments for lymphedema? I just learned we can chill our foam-filled night garments in a plastic bag in the refrigerator before bedtime (the foam retains the cool most of the night—great for hot flashes too!) But heat, of course, makes the lymphedema worse—Catch-22 situation.
Answers - Maria Theodoulou, M.D. On very hot nights, you can release the arm from that compression garment for a short period of time to counter the excessive sweating. If you live in an area where you're exposed to that very hot weather all the time, the suggestions about cooling the garment at night are excellent. But do be very careful during the daytime.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Lymphedema of the arm is really a challenge to deal with, summer as well as throughout the year. Many of my patients choose to wet the sleeves in summer, and the wetness keeps the arm a little cooler. I would not recommend using a wet sleeve on a regular basis, though. Only do this occasionally. If this is done for long periods of time, the moisture together with the heat and darkness underneath the sleeve can contribute to a yeast infection or other skin irritation. This is just an occasional solution for those very hot days. It is important to take the sleeve off at the end of the day, keep it clean, and inspect your arm carefully to make sure it is healthy and not irritated.

But also quite a number of my patients give up on the sleeve, and choose to use a carefully supervised pneumatic pump in the evening, in the privacy of their home, to help relieve the buildup of fluid. It is also difficult to keep the elasticized sleeve clean during the summer when you only have a few of them, and they get very sweaty.

How you manage this in the summer also depends, of course, on how significant the condition is. It can help a lot to stay in an air conditioned space during the heat of the day.
Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP Lymphedema is such a stressful condition, physically and emotionally, that I think some flexibility in dealing with it can be helpful. On a hot day, consider air-conditioned activities, and do things that have a summertime vacation feel but will allow you to keep cool.

On Wednesday, June 1, 2005, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Summertime Issues: Treatment and Personal CareMaria Theodoulou, M.D., Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about the various summertime issues that relate to breast cancer treatment and personal care.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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