The weather is (finally) hot, and there is little doubt that we are in the midst of summer. Scores of people are seeking refuge from the scorching heat by taking a dip in their local swimming pool. While we encourage swimming, the practitioners at OPC would like to take this opportunity to remind our readers about caring for their residual limb around pools and water.
Be certain your prosthetic is waterproof before diving into the pool. Most carbon fiber constructed devices are waterproof, but those with electronic or hydraulic components are not. It is also important to note that all suspension systems are not waterproof. If you are not sure if your prosthetic is waterproof, feel free to call our office. We will be happy to let you know if you are "safe to swim" or if you need to remove your prosthetic before jumping in!
When packing your pool bag, we recommending including an extra liner. According to Elliot, "Keeping the residual limb in a wet, enclosed environment for any length of time is a recipe for disaster." After you finish swimming, remove the wet liner and allow it to dry. Thoroughly towel your limb and, if possible, allow it to remain uncovered for a few minutes. (To avoid a debilitating and potentially dangerous sunburn, it is imperative that the residual limb be protected from the direct rays of the sun.) Slip into the dry liner before donning your prosthesis.
If the residual limb is not removed from the wet liner and allowed to dry, the amputee risks developing chapped spots. The skin initially feels tight and appears red and dry. Left untreated, it may crack (risking infection) and become painful. Removing the limb from the damp environment as quickly as the activity concludes will help to minimize the risk of skin breakdown.
Should breakdown occur, we recommend increasing the use of moisturizers and keeping prosthetic wear to a minimum until the skin heals. We often recommend incorporating antibiotic ointment into the regular moisturizer to decrease the likelihood of an infection developing. Allowing the residual limb to "breathe" and rest is often the best, and quickest, remedy for chapped skin.
We would like to wish all of our patients a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday!