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7 Heat-Related Skin Problems for Amputees (and How to Solve Them)

7 Heat-Related Skin Problems for Amputees (and How to Solve Them)

When the heat starts building, things can get uncomfortable. For people with limb loss, skin discomfort can get in the way of wearing a prosthesis and eventually interfere with mobility and independence. Careful preparation, monitoring, and treatment of your skin can keep it happy when temperatures rise. Here are a few of the top heat-related issues amputees face, along with ways to curb potential problems.

 

Two people walking along a boardwalk.

1.   Perspiration

People with limb loss tend to perspire more than the average person due to a number of factors. First, it takes extra effort and work to move with a prosthesis. Second, the prosthesis socket and liner may trap heat against the residual limb, further contributing to perspiration. Consequently, perspiration management is often a daily part of life for those with limb loss.

Frequent washing prevents perspiration-related skin issues and discomfort. Stay ahead of perspiration by washing your residual often. In colder months, a daily shower or bath is probably enough. However, in the summer or when you’re particularly active, you may need to shower, replace socks, or wash your liner more frequently.  

2.   Dry Skin

Dry skin gets itchy, chafes easily, and is more susceptible to irritation and infection. Daily moisturizing strengthens the skin, helping it to withstand the forces of wearing a prosthesis for hours each day.

Before donning your prosthesis, moisturize your residual limb with VitalFit Day Moisturizer,   a product that also contains antimicrobial ingredients  . This kind of moisturizer boosts the skin’s elasticity while helping prevent infections. You should also moisturize before bed. Night moisturizers with ingredients that promote healing can further strengthen the skin.  

3.   Chafing

The friction, heat, and perspiration inside the prosthesis socket can easily lead to chafing. Thankfully, there are ways to stay ahead of the rub. Always start with clean skin. Use a gentle cleanser that’s non-irritating and free of harmful chemicals.

Completely dry your skin, then apply a moisturizer with antimicrobial ingredients  . On active days or if you perspire more than usual, use a liquid-to-powder product. This type of product creates a friction barrier that protects the skin from excess rubbing.

Keep in mind that you may need to cleanse, moisturize, and apply more liquid-to-powder product throughout the day on hot or particularly active days.

4.   Prosthesis Fit

Of all the issues that affect your skin, prosthesis’ fit is one of the most important. A poor fit can make a prosthesis almost unwearable. The fit of your prosthesis isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s something that changes due to temperature, hydration levels, and natural changes in the body over time.

Extra socks and liners can help when the residual limb’s volume changes due to fluctuating conditions throughout the day. Take the time to make adjustments, so you stay comfortable. However, if you gain or lose enough weight to alter the prosthesis’ fit, make an appointment with your prosthetist to get an adjustment.

5.   Heat Rash

Blocked pores can trap perspiration under the skin and create an itchy red rash known as heat rash. The heat, moisture, and snug conditions of a prosthesis lend themselves to developing this condition.

The counter to this uncomfortable development is good hygiene and the same consistent routine that prevents other skin problems—keep the skin clean, moisturized, and as frictionless as possible.

6.   Folliculitis

Folliculitis is when hair follicles become inflamed. It’s often a sign of infection from bacteria or fungus. If left untreated, it can develop into a non-healing sore. Proper hygiene and using an antimicrobial moisturizer   can help prevent this condition. If you cannot clear up folliculitis within a few days, call your doctor. There are prescriptions that can help.

 

Woman drinking a bottle of water in the sun.

7.   Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion is when your body begins to lose the ability to cool itself. You may feel:

  • Fatigue
  • Rapid pulse
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness

Limb loss can put you at greater risk for heat exhaustion for the same reasons it can make you sweat more. Using a prosthesis makes your body work harder. That extra work and the heat build-up due to a prosthesis creates greater potential for overheating when active or in warm weather.

If you’re unable to cool down and get hydrated during heat exhaustion, you could develop heatstroke. Heatstroke has all of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, plus:

  • Changes in perspiration
  • Changes in behavior or mental state
  • Body temperature over 104°F
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart

To prevent both heat exhaustion and heatstroke, stay well hydrated. If you develop a headache or feel light-headed when you’re outside in high temperatures or exercising, find a place to cool off. Get into the shade if possible. You may need to take off your prosthesis to help cool your body. If symptoms progress, get immediate medical attention.

 

Two people talking on some steps.

The Takeaway 

Enjoy the sun and warm weather, but take precautions to maintain your independence and mobility. Daily skin care can alert you to problems before they develop into a condition that keeps you off your feet. Prepare your skin, and listen to your body so that you don’t miss the activities and adventures you love.

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