Why do our feet and ankles swell in the heat, and is it dangerous?


What to do when your ankles, feet or legs swell up when travelling.

By Dr Luke Powles

Some people may find that their hands, arms or feet can mildly swell when they’re exposed to very hot weather. This is known as oedema, and more often than not, isn’t a cause for concern.

But what causes swollen feet, legs and ankles in the heat, and how is oedema treated? Dr Luke Powles, Associate Clinical Director of Bupa Health Clinics, gives us the lowdown on swelling in the heat:

Why do we swell in the heat?

Hot, sun and tropical weather can trigger an increased blood supply to your skin. The swelling is caused when the fluid from your blood vessels moves into your skin tissue, which can worsen if your salt levels are already low.

This causes your skin to look puffy, swollen, shiny and sometimes red, as fluid pools around the affected area.

Is swelling in the heat dangerous?

Heat-based swelling usually goes away by itself once you’ve acclimatised to the new temperature, However, if the swelling hasn’t reduced within a few days, seek medical advice.

If you’re suffering from any of the following additional symptoms, be sure to seek urgent medical attention:

🔹 a high temperature

🔹 chest tightness

🔹 difficulty breathing

🔹 severe pain and redness to the affected area which is hot to the touch

Swelling in the heat prevention

Keeping cool is the best way to avoid heat-related swelling, though if you’re going on holiday to a tropical environment this may be difficult. Make sure you stay hydrated and maintain a healthy, but not excessive, intake of salt to reduce the risk of becoming dehydrated.

Swelling in the heat treatment

If you find yourself with swollen feet, ankles, legs or hands, try the following:

✔️ Keep cool – this can help to reduce the effects of heat oedema

✔️ Drink plenty of water

✔️ Wear loose-fitting clothes and make use of air conditioning and shaded areas.

✔️ Keep swollen areas clean and moisturised.

✔️ Encourage an improvement to your blood flow by alternating gentle exercise, such as walking, or elevating the affected area(s).

Net Doctor


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