By Joe Fleming
In addition to emotional stress, a key trigger for Raynaud’s attacks is dramatic changes in temperatures in any direction, i.e. hot to cold or cold to hot. When it comes to swimming, both diving into cold water as well as moving out of a pool can bring on Raynaud’s symptoms like blood vessel constriction, hands and extremities turning white and blue and then red, as well as intense feelings of cold.
As someone with Raynaud’s, you may experience some symptoms when entering cold water, but as your body temperature adjusts and the vigorous activity of swimming warms you up, you are likely to be able to swim without an attack. For many, it’s getting out of the water that can result in a sudden onset of symptoms, including skin discoloration, throbbing, tingling, numbness, pain, and even swelling. For severe cases, symptoms can last for many hours.
Open water swims associated with triathlons may require competitors to not wear gloves when swimming, which many Raynaud’s sufferers find handy. Other water activities, like water skiing and going to water parks, can bring on uncomfortable Raynaud’s attacks as well.
So what can people with Raynaud’s do to be able to enjoy the fun of swimming and watersports, but also prevent painful and frustrating attacks?
Before a Swim
- Boost circulation prior to a swim by stretching or performing a dynamic warm up. Ten to twenty minutes of yoga, jumping jacks, jump squats, or brisk walking can help get your heart rate up, thus increasing the rate at which blood is circulating through your body.
- If possible (and allowed) wear a thermal swimming cap as well as swimming gloves and water shoes/swimming booties which will help your body maintain a higher internal temperature while you swim.
- Wear a wetsuit to trap in heat while you swim, or even layer with disposable heat packs or a dry suit under your wetsuit for added protection. Put the wetsuit on at home if possible before heading for a swim.
- Set out a towel or terry cloth robe, and multiple layers of clothing to have at the ready when you’re done swimming.
After a Swim
- Have a warm shower right away or sit on a shower stool with warm water running over you to reheat slowly. Make sure your water isn’t too hot, or stepping out of the shower into a cool, drafty dressing room may result in an attack.
- Remove your bathing suit or wetsuit as quickly as possible and completely dry off with a towel.
- Have a thermos containing a hot drink to hold onto when you get out of the pool or ocean, and eat something warm if possible as well.
- Once dressed, activate disposable hot packs to place in your gloves and socks or make use of a portable hand heater, and dry your hair (or put on a hat to trap in heat).
Going to the spa, taking a dip in a hot tub, or soaking in the Jacuzzi can also affect Raynaud’s sufferers, as stepping out of higher temperature water amplifies the feeling of cold when you are no longer in it. The same tips and best practices above like drying off quickly, getting dressed in layers, and holding a warm beverage can help. And don’t miss these handy Summer Self-care Ideas for Raynaud’s Sufferers, as well!
Do you have any special hints and tips for enjoying swimming and watersports with Raynaud’s?
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.