Why do I swell up in the heat? How to reduce heat oedema this summer

When we experience hot weather in the UK, we're not usually that prepared for the impact it can have on our bodies.

Heat oedema's one potential side effect; a condition which can cause swelling or puffiness in the ankles, feet and legs, often caused by a build up of fluid in these areas.

What is heat oedema?

When the temperature rises, blood vessels near the surface of your skin automatically widen as a way of keeping your body cool. This increased blood flow can cause clear fluid from your lymph system (part of the immune system, and complementary to the circulatory system) to leak into the surrounding tissues, causing the swelling.

Some people naturally have more leaky capillaries (delicate blood vessels) than others, and most people will find this leakiness tends to increase with age.

While it's perfectly normal to have some swelling in the heat, especially in your lower limbs, a large amount of fluid build-up or swelling for no reason could be a sign of an underlying health condition, or the heat could be making something pre-existing worse. It's always wise to check this with your doctor.

Symptoms of oedema include:

  • Swollen or puffy ankles, feet or legs

  • Stretched or shiny skin

  • Changes in skin colour

  • Discomfort, stiffness and dents when you press the skin

Normal swelling should go away on its own, but there are some things you can do to try to help ease the discomfort.