5 Tips For Heat-Related Leg Swelling

Heat-related leg swelling is a common summer problem, especially for women. In this article we'll give you five tips to avoid and alleviate this symptom.
5 Tips For Heat-Related Leg Swelling

Last update: 02 January, 2021

Experts estimate that over two-thirds of women over 35 years of age experience heat-related leg swelling. It’s most common in the summer because of high temperatures. 

Although people can experience leg swelling at any time of the year, it’s especially problematic in the summer. The heat of the season combined with some factors that contribute to bloating is the ideal combination for this symptom to appear.

A hot environment causes the body to undergo changes in an attempt to counteract the heat. These predictable physiologic reactions often cause bothersome symptoms. Some of the body’s reactions are sweating, feeling thirsty, and vasodilation.

Vasodilation is the cause of swelling in the legs. The body’s blood vessels dilate to get rid of excess heat and transfer it to the exterior. The dilated veins are less elastic, and cause the blood to circulate more slowly. Then, fluid accumulates in the lower limbs due to gravity.

Veins are in charge of returning blood from the extremities to the heart. When the body undergoes the described changes due to heat, the slower blood flow causes filtration to the tissues and out of circulation. As a result, the legs swell.

Generally, it’s not a serious problem. In any case, if the symptom persists over time, is unrelated to hot weather, or is associated with cardiac or renal symptoms, consultation with a doctor is necessary to rule out underlying chronic illnesses. Cardiopathies and kidney diseases can be very dangerous.

If you experience leg swelling in the summer, we’ll give you five tips that can provide relief:

Although the heat tends to make us feel tired and not want to exercise, you really should try it. The right exercises for the lower limbs can help to decrease the accumulation of fluid. 

Certain repetitive motions for the legs help promote lymphatic and venous drainage. This helps blood return to circulation and to the heart. Exercise also increases heart rate, which makes blood pump faster and stronger.

For heat-related leg swelling, we recommend:

  • Doing squats
  • Jumping: Circulation of the body’s fluids is increased by jumping. You can jump on the ground or use a trampoline.
  • Aquatic exercises: Try simulating running in water. It also helps to cool off the lower extremities.
  • Climbing stairs: For those who live in buildings, this method can be incorporated into daily life by not taking the elevator.
Exercising the legs can reduce swelling.

2. Hydration

Leg swelling due to hot weather is an accumulation of fluid in the lower extremities, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid hydration. Many people falsely believe that by drinking less water they can avoid this swelling or edema. 

On the contrary, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day stimulates the production of urine. Additionally, blood circulates better when the kidneys are functioning as they’re supposed to. This means fluids leave their state of stagnation to return to the heart or be eliminated to the exterior.

The main recommendation is to always drink pure water with no additives. You can drink beverages with electrolytes if you practice sports, but you shouldn’t drink sugared beverages regularly. They can be counterproductive in preventing leg swelling.

3. Raising your legs

Raising the lower limbs is a simple but effective measure – it works against gravity, and forces the blood to return to the heart and continue to circulate.

You can elevate your legs several times during the day, using a bench or other chair to place them on. You can also raise them using a wall, stretching your back in a position that doesn’t hurt your lumbar region.

If you’re required to spend a lot of time in the same position at work, brief movements such as standing on your tiptoes are recommended to stimulate your circulation.

Elevating your legs can reduce swelling.

Massages and cold water baths can be beneficial to those who suffer from leg swelling due to heat. Some people recommend massages with aromatherapy, to increase relaxation and to calm any pain caused by the accumulation of fluid.

Cold water baths also help to relieve pain. Remember that the root of the problem is the heat. In addition to aromatherapy, some recommend wrapping legs in apple cider vinegar compresses.

5. Reduce salt in your diet

It’s not just cardiac patients who benefit from reducing salt in their diet. Salt is a hydrophilic (water-loving) substance and can lead to fluid retention. For this reason, limiting its consumption results in less accumulation of fluids.

The table salt we add to foods we prepare isn’t the only factor. Many of the processed foods we buy come loaded with sodium. It’s essential to read labels carefully to be informed about sodium content.

It might interest you...
Everything You Need to Know about Edema
Step To Health
Read it in Step To Health
Everything You Need to Know about Edema

Edema, or fluid retention, is a warning sign that should not be ignored. Learn about edema and problems like heart or renal failure it could be a s...

  • Rossi, Guillermo. “Diagnóstico diferencial de los edemas del miembro inferior.” Flebología y Linfología 2 (2007): 157-220.
  • Bertranou, Enrique G. Trastornos venosos de los miembros inferiores. El Cid Editor, 2001.
  • Ferrandez, Jean-Claude. Reeducación de los edemas de los miembros inferiores. Elsevier España, 2002.