• Jeanine Mewburn

Traveling with lymphoedema.

Holiday time is time to hit the road or the air and get that well deserved break from work or the routine of daily living. "But wait, I have lymphoedema, what should I do? ls traveling going to aggravate it?

Traveling is good for the soul. Have a change of scenery and meet different people, renew yourself and the family, enjoy life. The first thing to envisage is to put all your worries and concerns about work and finances into a box in your mind, close the lid and put a padlock on it. lt is not to be reopened until after the holidays. Surprise, surprise, you may notice on your return that some of them have completely vanished.

Personally I dread a road trip having to sit for hours. I feel terribly restless and have that constant need to stretch my legs. This is because the blood circulation slows down due to the muscles being at rest. The lymph nodes in the groin and behind the knees cannot work optimally in a closed up joint for long periods of time. The valves in the veins cannot function well and the area blood pressure raises. When the circulation returns to your limb, blood clots can be dislodged and travel toward the heart or your lungs causing an embolism, which can be fatal. Should the blood circulation slows down, so does the lymph circulation and this can exacerbate the lymphoedema.

Traveling by plane results in the same scenario. ln addition, the low air pressure in the cabin allows the tissues in the body to expand and consequently the fluid to pool. The low cabin air pressure can leave you dehydrated, it also puts pressure on the joints causing pain. Do you know that the air pressure drops just before a storm? Some people can feel a change in the weather, some develop a migraine or experience a drop in blood pressure or sugar levels.

Here are a few advice on how to travel safely. First of all, wear comfortable clothing and keep moving your muscles. While seated for long periods of time, curl your toes, tap your feet, flex your legs, elevate your arms and practice deep breathing. Have regular pit stops at least every two hours. Give yourself time to get fresh air, walk around your car, stretch your legs and relax your shoulders. Walk along the aisle when flying. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. lt is a great way to remember to make a "pee stop", to get up and walk to the toilet. I often hear people mentioning that they avoid drinking water on a plane in order not to visit that poky, sometimes not so clean little corner. You can fix this problem and take anti-bacterial wipes with you.

More so for people with lymphoedema, you need to follow these advice and wear compression garments. People with only ankle swelling during a flight need wearing preventative compression stockings, which need to be properly fitted to avoid tourniquets. Remember that legs and arms are shapely. The compression needs to be adequate on all parts of your limbs and decreased gradually in the direction of the heart to promote an efficient blood and lymph flow. I personally dislike the "flying socks" bought cheaply. They are usually ill fitted. I would suggest instead a nice pair of class 1 medical compression stockings. They can be very stylish and so comfortable. You may like them so much that you may wear them in normal time. I also suggest to wear your garment at least one hour prior to a flight and for at least three hours on arrival doing a little walking and stretching to give your body time to return to normal.

Stay safe and I wish you a happy holiday. See you later alligator.....

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