Wearing Prosthetics In The Summer
17 Mar 2017
Warm weather brings opportunities for getting out of the house, experiencing the great outdoors, taking a break from the same-old routine and just enjoying life more. With some minor accommodations, these attributes can apply to people with limb loss every bit as much as anyone else.
There is little reason why most otherwise-healthy amputees cannot participate in popular activities of summer – swimming, sports, fishing, boating, going to the beach, etc. In fact, we can create special-purpose limbs incorporating components designed to allow and withstand the rigors of these particular activities.
Frequently, we can incorporate components from a patient’s old prosthesis into a swim leg or other special-use lower limb. For upper-limb patients we can also provide a wide selection of specialty terminal devices uniquely fabricated for particular sports and outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, baseball, golf, basketball, photography, bicycling, shooting and archery, among many others.
Summer Precautions When Wearing Prosthetics
Whatever routine or specialty componentry an amputee may be wearing, the warm, humid weather typically experienced during the summer months presents certain health, fitting and comfort issues not as often encountered at other times of the year.
Perspiration – Amputees have added concerns as to how the body regulates temperature.
For starters, a limb deficiency means reduced skin surface, so the body’s natural cooling system – sweating – is less efficient.
Enclosed within a well-fitting prosthetic socket, the residual limb is isolated from circulating air, so perspiration cannot naturally evaporate from the skin surface. Moreover, an amputee uses more energy during ambulation than people without limb loss, which naturally increases the body’s temperature and perspiration as well.
Particularly during summer, excess perspiration leading to wet skin and/or prosthetic interface (socket interior, gel liner) can produce a loose fit and reduced suspension, which may cause the limb to detach. In addition, skin gland secretions and bacteria will build up during prosthesis wear, which can lead to infection and potential skin breakdown.
A good remedy is to remove the prosthesis, and liner if used, and thoroughly dry the skin, liner and/or interior socket surface, several times a day if necessary. Wearing a limb sock can help wick perspiration away from the skin while providing a cooling effect. Limb socks may need to be changed more than once a day during summer.
Both the residual limb and the socket interior should be washed thoroughly with soap containing hexachlorophene or another bacteriostatic agent daily.
Particularly in warm, humid climates, additional treatment with an antiperspirant may be needed. If over-the-counter brands don’t provide needed relief, a dermatologist’s prescription for a higher-strength product may prove worthwhile.
Residual limb fluctuation – Another concern in the warm summer weather is volume fluctuation as the residual limb swells from the heat. For many amputees, this issue can be resolved easily by reducing sock plies. In some cases, a socket adjustment may be necessary.
Excessive heat may also pose difficulty for donning an above knee prosthesis. Staying in an air-conditioned room for 15-20 minutes or taking a cold shower before donning the limb may help.
If you have questions about getting more enjoyment from wearing a prosthesis in summer, give us a call.