Top 10 Tips on Living Life to the Fullest with a PICC

by Kathleen Gagnon
Top 10 Tips on Living Life to the Fullest with a PICC

When you get a new piece of medical equipment, it can definitely take some getting used to. Having a line hanging from your arm isn’t natural. You weren’t born with it, so it’s normal that you’ll need to adapt to living with it. Personally, I’ve been living with a PICC line for a year. Now, I don’t even notice it’s there; it just feels like an extension of my body! At first, I was concerned, as I thought the PICC line would limit me from living a normal life, but I quickly realized that it’s still possible to live an amazing life with a PICC line!

There are inevitably some changes in your life that you’ll need to make because of your PICC line. However, through my experience, I’ve discovered several ways to make life with a PICC line just a little easier. Here are my top 10 tips for living life with a PICC line to the fullest:

1. Ditch the PICC sleeve the hospital gives you

When you get your PICC line placed, you will receive a white mesh sleeve that you can put over your PICC line for protection. At first, it isn’t too bad, but it can get itchy and may stretch out very quickly. One of the best things you can do for your comfort is to purchase a PICC line sleeve, like Mighty Well’s PICCPerfect® PICC Line Cover! I especially like their covers since they have holes to put your lumen(s) through, and the sleeve folds up over them to keep them well in place. Not only will a fabric sleeve be more comfortable, but you can also get several different colors and patterns to match any outfit! They are also more discreet and look less clinical than the sleeves given by the hospital.

2. Test out different PICC line dressings

A lot of people, like myself, have issues with adhesive allergies, so if the first dressing you have causes a rash or skin irritation, don’t fret! There are lots of different see-through dressings to try. From Tegaderm to IV 3000 and beyond, your PICC care nurse or doctor who placed the line should be able to help you find a solution. They can do a dry dressing if you can’t tolerate any adhesive. Don’t worry if you have issues at first with your line; the healthcare world is huge and there are lots of options out there! 

3. Use a handheld showerhead

If you shower or bathe using a removable shower head, it makes it easier to direct where the water is spraying, which helps keep your PICC line dry! Use your arm with the PICC line in it to hold the showerhead, as it’s less likely to spray your arm accidentally. It’s very important to keep your line and dressing dry because bacteria thrive in moist environments; it’s important to prevent infection as much as possible. However, I don’t recommend using a removable showerhead as your sole preventative measure. Combine it with a PICC line shower sleeve of some sort, which I’ll discuss in the next tip!

4. Skip the plastic wrap, get a waterproof sleeve

Some people wrap their line in plastic wrap and stick it to their skin with waterproof tape. However, this isn’t always reliable, as water can leak in. Sometimes, due to line placement, you may need to use plastic wrap over your elbow too. This can restrict movement and make it hard to bend your arm when washing. Other people use similar techniques like garbage bags and tape, but it still presents the same issues. I find using a Waterproof PICC Line Cover is the easiest in terms of protection!

Enjoying the pool using a waterproof sleeve

5. When in doubt, ask your team

If you’re not sure about whether or not you need to clean your end cap when handling your PICC line, if your insertion site skin is abnormally red and you’re worried it’s infected, if your PICC line is causing concerning pain, or if you have any concerns or questions at all, contact your team! With a central line, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So don’t wait it out, instead, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Voicing any questions or concerns will help you maintain a healthy PICC line.

6. Practice gratitude when discouraged

Living life with a PICC line can be difficult, and it’s normal to get discouraged sometimes when living with a chronic illness. When you’re feeling low about your PICC line, remind yourself of all the good it has brought to your life or will bring in the future. Ask yourself, has it helped you feel better through administering medication? Has it helped you beat an infection? Has it helped you prevent dehydration by giving you fluids? It may feel silly at first to list reasons why you’re grateful for your central line, but over time, it’ll help change your pattern of thinking, so you’ll feel better about it. Remember to always focus on the positive!

7. Don’t let your PICC line stop you from living your life

Unless something you want to do is constrained with a PICC line and you’re told not to do it by your medical team, you can still do almost anything with your PICC line that you could do without it! You can still travel, go out with friends, go to school, exercise, and do almost anything you want. Don’t be afraid to dream big. People have hiked mountains, traveled the world, started businesses, had families, and accomplished their dreams while having PICC lines. Never give up. 

Turning sickness into strength!

8. Infuse on the go

Being attached to your IV pole for an extended time can make you feel trapped and restricted. Just because you’re infusing doesn’t mean you need to be tied to a pole! Get yourself a nice backpack for your pump and IV solution. The Mighty Well Fluid Motion Backpack is a great option. This medical pack is sleek and discrete with its ability to store medical supplies and other daily needs, like a computer or notebook. With two removable carabiners inside, you can hang your IV fluids and take infusions on the go!

9. Get an extension for your PICC line so you can reach your line cap and hoop up to infusions on your own

Depending on your PICC line placement, it can be hard to hook up your line yourself, limiting your independence. To make it easier, your line care nurse, or whoever does your dressing changes, can add an extension onto your PICC line to make it longer. They come in all different lengths, so you can find one that’s perfect for your needs. When you’re not using it, you can tuck the extra tubing into your PICCPerfect® PICC Line Cover. It may add a little extra bulk, but you won’t even notice it tucked away in your sleeve! Typically, extensions only need to be changed when it’s time for a new cap, so your nurse can do it all in one visit! 

10. Find what’s comfortable for you

Lastly, everyone has different preferences on how they protect their PICC line and set up their IV line for infusions. Personally, I prefer running my IV line under my shirt rather than having it hanging from my arm. Before you hook up your line, run it up through the bottom of your shirt, so it is coming out of the sleeve where your PICC line is located and then hook it up. Be careful not to knock off the cap of the IV line while bringing it through your shirt. Tug your line very gently at the bottom of your shirt, so there’s no slack hanging down from your arm; this prevents it from getting caught on things! But, some people prefer connecting their IV line directly to their PICC line, so it’s hanging from their arm. Play around, and find what’s best for you!

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