My question concerns protecting my arm when flying on an airplane. I have Lymphedema of the left arm from breast cancer surgery. The cancer surgery was in 1988 but I did not develop Lymphedema till 2005. I have a mild case at present, my arms look the same as each other. I generally wear a class 2 compression arm sleeve during the day and use a glove and a night sleeve overnight. Which would be best to wear on an airplane and why?
It is recommended that individuals that have lymphedema or are prone to developing lymphedema use caution when flying. There are three reasons that are commonly used to explain the reason to use caution when flying. They are: 1.the cabin pressure is not adequate for an individual not to have retention of fluids during the flight, 2.the air in the cabin that you breathe is being re-circulated and is dehydrating to our bodies, and 3. the individual has reduction in muscle activity which impacts the movement of the fluids within our bodies.
Therefore we encourage the individual to wear a compression garmentor to wrap the arm with compression bandaging (if the sleeve fails to control edema formation) when they fly. The compression garment with its elastic properties will provide increased tissue pressure to help manage any increase in fluid production during flight. We also encourage the individual to refrain from drinking or consuming products with sodium (such as peanuts, chips, sodas) and consume increased water during the flight to prevent the tissues from becoming dehydrated. When the tissues become dehydrated the protein that we are encouraging to be reabsorbed becomes thick and stays within the tissues causing an increase in fluid to be retained in the tissues beneath the skin of the arm. Lastly, we encourage the individual to perform diaphragmatic breathing and gentle arm exercises while flying to generate the muscle pump and help to return fluids from the tissues back into the central blood system for processing. This activity can be done inconspicuously while seated in the seat such as performing hand squeezes, moving the wrist in circles, moving the forearm by turning the palm up and down, bending and straightening the elbow, and raising the arm over head turning the light on and off several times.
If the compression (elastic) garment (Class 2) is preventing you from swelling then this is what I would suggest continuing to wear. We only encourage the more complex compression bandaging (non-elastic) when the elastic garment does not prevent them from retaining fluid during the flight. The non-elastic bandaging system prevents the tissues from retaining fluid but is cumbersome to travel in.
Posted: 14 Oct 2008 04:40 PM Originally Posted: 14 Oct 2008 04:39 PM