Lymphoedema travel checklist

If you have lymphoedema, there are things you will need to think about when travelling.

Travel planning if you have lymphoedema

If you are planning to go away on holiday, you may worry about managing your lymphoedema. Planning ahead for your trip should help you manage any possible problems and enjoy your time away.

It is important to carry on with your usual routine for managing your lymphoedema. But there are other things you need to be careful of when travelling.

You may find this checklist useful to help you plan ahead.

Before you go

  • If you need any vaccinations before your holiday, do not have them in an affected limb.
  • If you are planning a more active holiday, talk to your lymphoedema specialist before you go. They can advise you how to plan your trip so you do not put too much stress on the affected area.
  • If you have had cellulitis in the past, ask your GP about antibiotics to take with you. If you develop cellulitis while away, you can start taking them at the first sign of infection. It can be helpful for your lymphoedema specialist to speak with your GP about this.
  • Pack an antiseptic cream in case you get a cut, scratch or bite in the affected area.
  • Pack an insect repellent. You need one that contains at least 50% DEET. This is the active ingredient in insect repellent. Your pharmacist can advise you which might be best.
  • If you are taking any prescription drugs with you, make sure you have enough to last. You may also need a letter from your doctor.
  • Make sure you have travel insurance.

During your journey

  • You may be planning to go on a plane and have a compression garment. You will need to wear it for a few hours before, during and for a few hours after the flight. Any increased swelling during the flight should reduce afterwards.
  • When you travel on a plane or train, move around a lot and do gentle stretching exercises. You can ask your lymphoedema specialist what exercises might help. You could book an aisle seat, so you have more room to move.
  • During longer car journeys, stop regularly to get out and walk around.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and shoes.
  • When on a plane, wear flight socks that fit well. Your GP or specialist nurse can give you advice if you cannot find a pair that fit.
  • Use a suitcase with wheels – this can be easier than carrying a heavy bag. Avoid lifting and pulling heavy luggage with your affected arm. Ask someone to help.

While you are away

  • If you have lymphoedema in your leg, do not walk barefoot on the beach or around the swimming pool. This reduces the risk of cuts and possible infection in your foot.
  • Sunburn can increase swelling. If you are in a hot climate, it is important to wear good quality sun cream. Look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50. Sit in the shade or cover the affected area with a hat, long-sleeved shirt or loose trousers.
  • Drink plenty of water. This will help to keep your skin in good condition.
  • Sea salt and chlorine make the skin dry. If you go swimming, shower afterwards and put on moisturiser.
  • Avoid saunas and hot baths. Keep the affected area as cool as possible.
  • If you start to get signs of an infection, let a doctor know straight away. These signs could be flu-like symptoms including high temperature, redness or heat in the affected area. It may also include increased swelling. If you have antibiotics with you, start taking them as soon as possible.

We have more information on travel and cancer.

You can also contact the Lymphoedema Support Network. It has a more detailed guide on holidays and travel for people with lymphoedema.