Why do my feet & ankles swell when it’s hot?

It is a common question we get asked during Spring and Summer, and something that affects the general population. Why do my feet and ankles swell during the warmer weather?

Swelling of the feet and ankles – or Heat Oedema, is swelling which is related to high temperatures. Although it happens in different areas of the body (hands are another body part where it is obvious), it is very pronounced and visible in the legs because of gravity. The swelling is usually temporary, but in some cases, it can become uncomfortable.

Why Does The Swelling Occur?

During hot weather, our veins temporary dilate which means they expand. The reason why this happens is so more blood can be carried to the skin, and the heat is lost in the air. This is a process our body does to allow us to stay at a cool, healthy temperature. Because the veins have expanded, fluid is able to leak out into surrounding tissues. This water often pools in the feet, ankles and legs because of gravity, and is also known as fluid retention.

How Can I Prevent The Swelling?

  • Self-massage – Massage stimulates the flow of blood and lymph vessels. If done in the correct manner, it can help reduce swelling.
  • Drink plenty of water – it sounds counter-intuitive to increase your fluid intake, but drinking more water will help your body to mobilise fluids and reduce swelling.
  • Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe and move freely.
  • Rest with your legs elevated – This can help redirect the fluid back towards your heart for circulation. It’s as easy as putting a cushion under your feet when watching TV.
  • Wear compression stockings – The stockings act as an aid to help with fluid and blood flow facilitation.
  • Keep moving – Avoid long periods of sitting or standing where possible, as staying sedentary encourages the accumulation of fluid.
  • Doing a few minutes of walking and simple leg exercises will get your calves pumping that blood back up to the heart.
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