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Common Foot Problems FOOT HEALTH

Reduce Foot Swelling in Hot Weather: Tips for Swollen Feet in the Summer

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If you have issues with your feet swelling in hot weather, you are not alone. The summer heat and humidity that occurs in the spring and summertime can cause your legs and feet to swell. 

Swollen feet can be incredibly uncomfortable. Not only that, but if your feet and legs are swollen, this can put you at risk for infections, ulcerations, and blood clots. 

Swelling in the feet and legs can also cause problems with footwear. You may notice that suddenly your favorite shoes are too tight to wear. This can be frustrating. 

In this article, you’ll learn why your feet swell in hot weather, and tips on what you can do about it. 

feet swelling heat

Why Do Feet and Ankles Swell in Hot Summer Weather?

There are veins in your legs that pump blood flow back to the heart. 

Inside the veins, valves assist to pump the blood flow in an upwards direction. In addition, when you are walking, your calf muscles help to push the blood in the legs back to the heart. 

When you stand or sit for a long time, you may notice increased swelling in your legs. This occurs due to your body’s inability to pump the blood in your veins back to your heart. This is called “venous insufficiency”.

Elevating the ankles above the level of the heart can help relieve this type of swelling (1). Make sure to elevate your feet on two pillows.

When the weather is hot or humid, vasodilation occurs. Vasodilation is when the vein walls expand. This increases pressure in the veins (2) and increases swelling. 

Foot swelling from hot weather can occur fairly quickly, especially if your body is used to being in a cooler climate.   

dehydration

Can Dehydration in the Summertime Cause Swollen Feet?

Many people do not drink enough water every day. You lose water constantly due to perspiration as well as urination. 

If you are active, which is more likely true in the summertime, you are at higher risk for dehydration.

Dehydration forces fluid into the tissues and causes an excess of swelling to occur in your feet and legs. 

Read more about Dehydration and Foot Swelling in detail in this supplemental article.

Tips to Stop Swelling of the Feet in Hot Weather

Compression stockings

1) Wear Compression Stockings

The best thing you can do for puffy feet and legs is to wear compression stockings.

Compression stockings are very effective in helping push blood flow back to your heart. They come in many different strengths and are very tight.

You can start by wearing compression stockings (strength 15-20mmHg). 

Imagine a blood pressure cuff squeezing your ankle up to 15 or 20mmHg. That’s how much compression you will feel in the ankle/legs. 

This level of compression is necessary to help push blood flow from your legs to your heart. 

Compression stockings can be worn all day long and should be removed at night when your legs are up. 

It can be frustrating to wear compression stockings in the summertime when it’s hot outside, but nowadays, compression stockings come in a variety of breathable materials.

Ideally, you should go to a medical equipment store and get your ankles and calves measured so that you can obtain the right size compression garment. 

However, if you are looking to buy some online, measure your calves and ankles to make sure you are ordering the correct size. 

Try wearing the CharmKing Compression Stockings. You can buy these stockings on Amazon. The compression strength is great on these and it is very effective. 

If you have painful corns on your toes or suffer from painful ingrown toenails, you may want to get open-toe stockings to avoid pressure on your toes.

Compression stockings are designed to work at the ankle, so your toes can remain open if you wish. 

2) Use Mechanical Leg Pumps

Some people do not want to wear compression stockings or have great difficulty applying them because they are too tight. 

In this case, mechanical leg pumps can be very effective in pushing the blood flow from the legs back to the heart. 

The leg pump should be used for at least an hour daily depending on the manufacturer. 

Try the Leg Compression Massager. You can wear it while sitting on your recliner and watching tv. This is effective in reducing swelling. However, you will need to use it daily for maximum benefits.

cup of water pills

3) Consider Taking a Water Pill

You may want to consider taking a water pill to reduce swelling. 

If you have high blood pressure and issues with excess fluid retention in your legs, a water pill, such as Furosemide, can be beneficial. 

Furosemide is a loop diuretic that can help reduce fluid retention in the body. However, you will need to speak to your doctor before taking this pill and other water pills.

If you lose too much fluid, you are at risk of losing valuable electrolytes. This can be a dangerous situation and can affect the organs in your body such as your heart and kidneys. 

4) Stay Active During the Day for Good Health

Make sure you stay active! When you walk, the calf muscles pump the blood flow back to your heart. This naturally helps with swelling.

Try not to stand in one spot for a long time. Walk comfortably. You don’t need to walk all day, but make sure to try to get a few steps in every hour. 

If you cannot walk and are wheelchair bound, extend and flex your knees regularly to stimulate blood flow. 

5) Choose the Correct Shoes

If you have noticed that your feet swell by the end of the day, expect them to swell more in hot weather. 

If you are planning on taking a trip to a hot destination, make sure to take a couple of pairs of shoes with you in preparation. 

Your shoes should not be too tight. Otherwise, this can cause painful sores to develop in your feet due to irritation against your swollen feet. 

You should speak to your foot doctor about recommendations for foot gear. 

watermelon

6) Manage Your Diet

Eating foods that are natural diuretics can help significantly to reduce foot and ankle swelling. Aim to eat food such as watermelon, cucumbers, onions, and celery. 

Avoid foods with high amounts of salt. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. 

Are Swollen Feet and Legs Dangerous?

You may think that swelling in your feet and legs is harmless, however, it can cause many different problems to occur:

Cellulitis

When your feet and legs are swollen, your skin becomes stretched out. This can put you at higher risk for developing a bacterial infection in your legs called “Cellulitis”. 

Cellulitis can look like redness in your leg that is hot to touch. It can be very painful. There is an increased risk for cellulitis in the summer months (3)

Solution

If you develop cellulitis in your legs, you will need to contact your doctor immediately for antibiotics. Untreated cellulitis can worsen and result in hospitalization. 

Until you see your doctor, you can manage your pain with NSAIDS like Motrin. Keep your legs and feet clean using soap and water. 

leg ulcers

Leg Ulcers

When you have prolonged swelling in your legs, you may develop sores in your legs called “ulcers”. Leg ulcers can be very painful and difficult to get rid of. 

There is a significantly higher frequency of ulcer onset during the warmer parts of the year, April-October (4).  

Solution

If you develop leg ulcers, you should gently wash your legs and apply antibiotic cream to the ulceration sites. Keep the leg ulcers covered using gauze and a compression wrap

You should contact your doctor immediately to receive appropriate wound care for leg ulcers. 

Your doctor will counsel you on how to treat your leg ulcers and manage your swelling. 

blood clots

Blood Clots

When your legs and feet are swollen, you are at a higher risk of developing a blood clot. When your blood moves too slowly through your veins, it can clot.

This can cause a blood clot called Deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  

This can cause redness, tightness in the calf, and pain with pressure on the calf. It usually happens more often in one calf, however, it can happen in both.  

The biggest risk factor for a blood clot is a history of a blood clot in the legs. 

Other risk factors include a history of smoking, pregnancy, use of birth control pills, and recent surgery. 

Solution

If you think you have a blood clot, you should go to the emergency room. Diagnosis of DVT is made using ultrasound. 

It is a non-invasive test performed in a radiology or the vascular laboratory (1).

If you have a blood clot, you may require blood thinners. 

The Impact of Liver Disease and Kidney Disease

In people with underlying health issues like kidney and liver disease, swelling in the feet can be exacerbated. These organs play a crucial role in managing our body’s fluids and electrolytes. 

Liver disease can cause a decrease in protein production, specifically albumin, leading to an imbalance in the body’s ability to keep fluid in the bloodstream. Consequently, fluid leaks out into the tissues, causing swelling. 

On the other hand, kidney disease can result in the inability to properly filter blood and excrete excess fluid and salt, leading to edema in the lower limbs. 

Solution

Engaging in gentle exercises, such as walking or swimming, can promote circulation and help reduce fluid buildup. Compression stockings should be worn regularly and can help reduce swelling. 

Conclusion

As you can see, foot and leg swelling can be exacerbated in hot weather and can cause a variety of problems. However, you can prevent and manage your symptoms with adequate hydration, activity, and compression. 

Related article: Can Dehydration Cause Your Feet To Swell: Explore the Connection

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References

1. Evans NS, Ratchford EV. The swollen leg. Vascular Medicine. 2016;21(6):562-564.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1358863X16672576

2. Henry, J. P., & Gauer, O. H. (1950). The influence of temperature upon venous pressure in the foot. The Journal of clinical investigation, 29(7), 855-861.https://dm5migu4zj3pb.cloudfront.net/manuscripts/102000/102318/JCI50102318.pdf

3. Ryan A Peterson, Linnea A Polgreen, Daniel K Sewell, Philip M Polgreen, Warmer Weather as a Risk Factor for Cellulitis: A Population-based Investigation, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 65, Issue 7, 1 October 2017, Pages 1167–1173. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/65/7/1167/4056313

4. Simka M. Seasonal variations in the onset and healing rates of venous leg ulcers. Phlebology. 2010 Feb;25(1):29-34.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20118343/

5. Besharat S, Grol-Prokopczyk H, Gao S, Feng C, Akwaa F, Gewandter JS. Peripheral edema: A common and persistent health problem for older Americans. PLoS One. 2021 Dec 16;16(12):e0260742.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34914717/

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Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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