I love summer. I relish the sense of freedom that comes from wearing sundresses and sandals. Feeling the sun on my shoulders and feeling the grass beneath my foot makes me feel energized and alive. Even in this carefree season, summer does pose some interesting issues for the amputee.
Heat causes the skin to sweat. Typically perspiration is a relatively benign occurrence and is not given much thought. However when the stump begins to sweat, it can ruin the activities for the entire day.
A sweaty stump can lead to pistoning within the liner, making the amputee unsteady. It is an unnerving feeling when the liner is secure but the stump is moving in and out of the socket. When this happens, I feel as if I am no longer in control of the prosthetic, and in many ways I am at the mercy of my leg. I have no choice but to stop what I am doing, remove my liner and dry my leg. Depending upon where I am, this is not always easy.
I went sight-seeing a few years ago and was struggling with a sweaty leg all day. Because we were in the middle of DC, I did not feel comfortable taking off my prosthetic to dry my skin. I opted to tough it out and keep going, making sure to walk slowly and deliberately to avoid falling. When I finally got home and took off my liner, a puddle of sweat poured out.
I didn't realize that I was damaging the tender skin on my limb. In addition to contributing to instability, a sweaty residual limb is prone to sores and pinch cuts. The movement of the skin against the liner can lead to irritation. I made it through the day, but I had also developed a sore on the back of my leg. I was forced to go on antibiotics and I couldn't wear my prosthetic until it healed. I knew that I had to start doing something so that this didn't happened again.
Through trial and error, I have discovered that a little preparation can thwart a sweaty residual limb. When I know I am going to be exercising or spending a lot of time outside, I will spray my stump with Stay Dri antiperspirant. This keeps my stump from sweating, enabling me to stay secure within my liner despite the oppressive heat.
I don't like putting chemicals on or in my body, but the risks of falling or skin breakdown because of a sweaty stump outweighs those concerns. I don't use the spray daily because I do not want to decrease the effectiveness nor do I want a constant supply of chemicals on my skin. I always wash my limb as soon as my exposure to the heat and activity is over.
I have tried numerous brands of antiperspirant spray, but I found them either ineffective or irritating. For whatever reason, Stay Dri works for me. Scott became the beneficiary of the 14 sprays that didn't work for me. In retrospect, perhaps I should have purchased sample sizes for my experiment.