The summer months bring lots of sun, but it also brings with it swollen ankles and feet known as heat edema. As our bodies try and keep cool, our blood vessels constrict, making it hard for blood to travel back to our hearts. The excess fluids can build up in our lower extremities and seep into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling in your ankles and feet. How can we best combat this? We’ve put together some tips that can help ease the swelling.
Who is at risk for heat edema?
Frankly, no one is immune to heat edema. But there are some people who are more at risk. Those who are not used to warmer climates have a higher risk of developing heat edema, due to the fact that their bodies have not properly acclimated to the warm temperatures.
People who are overweight as well as the elderly are also more likely to develop heat edema, as these groups tend to retain more water. Lymphedema sufferers are also at risk of edema because their legs can get swollen at any given time regardless of the temperature outside. But it is important to note that young, healthy people can also develop this condition, so it is important for all to recognize the warning signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of heat edema
The most common is swelling in the legs and/or feet. You may experience puffiness or swelling directly under the skin, particularly on the legs or your arms. It doesn’t end there, though. If you notice that your skin is stretchy or shiny, this can be indicative of heat edema. Another symptom is if a dimple remains in the skin after pushing on it for several seconds. The final symptom is an increase in abdominal size.
These are the signs to keep an eye out for in regard to heat edema. If you do find that you have heat edema, here is what you can do to best manage it.
Put your feet up!
Taking your feet off of the ground and elevating them is key when you see that they are starting to swell. Gravity works against us when it comes to swelling, which is why it’s key to elevate your feet higher than your heart as often as you can, especially in these summer months when the temperatures start climbing.
Get up and move periodically.
When it’s hot out, our natural inclination may be to rest, stay inside, and chill. But, keeping stationary for too long can cause us to retain water. Moderate regular exercise like walking or swimming helps keep your blood circulating. If it is extremely hot out, it’s key to do your exercising at the coolest part of the day, whether that be early morning or later in the evening.
Stay out of the heat as much as you can.
With all of this being said, if you are prone to heat edema, avoiding the heat as much as possible is sensible.
Try your best to:
-Sit in shady places.
-Take breaks in air-conditioned spaces to cool off.
-Try a mobile fan to help cool down.
-Opt out of hot baths, showers, and saunas.
-At the end of a shower, you can splash cold water on your legs to boost circulation.
-Drink plenty of water.
When the temperatures rise, you should increase hydration. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day can help reduce the amount of salt in your body, a leading contributor to water retention and swelling.
-Add diuretics to your diet.
Foods that act as diuretics can help get rid of excess water in your body. What foods are diuretics? Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce, green beans, pineapple, pumpkin, onion, lemons, and beets are all diuretics.
-Reduce your salt content.
Lots of salt in your diet can contribute to water retention, which can help reduce the risk of heat edema. Cutting back on salty snacks, smoked meats, soups, highly processed foods, and sauces can help.
-Wear your compression
While it may not seem comfortable to wear compression in the summer, it’s vital. Even people without venous disease tend to have heavy legs and swelling in the summer. Wearing medical compression stockings can help reduce swelling and also improve overall leg health and well-being.
medi®’s premium compression line mediven® offers many benefits for summer wearing. The Clima Comfort technology built into the compression stockings prevents heat build-up underneath the stocking and ensures that moisture is quickly transported to the outside and off of the skin.
mediven offers a wide array of compression products for the summer, but the various open toe compression stockings offer the wearer a chance to still partake in the sandal and flip-flop action and feel the sand in between the toes. In addition to the line of mediven compression stockings, the medi day cooling gel from the care series gently cools and comforts patients’ skin while wearing compression stockings. For an added cool kick, put the gel in the fridge!
Heat edema isn’t fun but knowing the symptoms can help you get back to enjoying the summer sun.