Do Your Feet and Legs Swell While Flying? Here’s Why
Traveling can be a stressful experience. Arriving early at the airport, clearing security, lugging around suitcases and carry-ons, and rushing to find your gate before departure has most of us sighing in relief when we finally take a seat on our flight. Hours or even minutes into the flight, however, you notice that your feet and legs are starting to swell and your skin becoming tight and puffy. What gives?
This is not an uncommon occurrence, and there’s a simple explanation. When seated, essential blood flow is restricted to the legs. In particular, flying in an airplane not only requires you to stay seated but often for long periods of time. Blood will as a result pool in the lower extremities, which leads to swelling in the legs and feet. Whenever possible, it’s important to get up and stretch your legs, especially on flights lasting longer than an hour or so, even if it is to simply walk up and down the aisle of the plane. Whenever there is room, store your bags in the overhead compartments so that your feet and legs have more room to move in the row.
In addition to sitting in a confined space, the low cabin pressure and dry air can often contribute to swollen legs and feet. The combination of these two conditions can dehydrate the body rapidly, which is why many people complain of headaches during and after flights, in addition to swollen feet. Avoid dehydration by sipping water throughout the flight, even if it means you’ll have to use the airplane’s lavatory. You’ll be able to get up and move your legs around as well.
If you know that you are prone to swelling during a flight, avoid salty foods before and during your flight. Excess sodium in the body can often result in swollen hands and feet. You can also purchase an aisle seat or bulkhead/emergency exit seat. You’ll have more legroom in these seats. If there is no one seated next to you, the ideal remedy would be to prop your feet up in the empty seat next to you in order to keep blood from pooling in the legs and feet. In addition, avoid crossing your legs at the knees, as this exacerbates swelling. Compression socks and slip-on shoes can minimize swelling and discomfort during and after a flight as well.
If you’re not sure if your legs and feet swell, press gently on the areas surrounding the kneecaps and ankles; if you feel a firm give which quickly rebounds, you are most likely retaining fluid. It’s important to move the legs around and hydrate as quickly as possible, as swelling can lead to blood clots in the legs. Blood clots can be very dangerous if they travel to the lungs, heart or brain.
Avoid any discomfort and inconveniences when traveling by planning ahead! It’s always recommended that you have a thorough exam by a foot specialist if you are susceptible to swelling in the legs and feet. Request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists today for a foot exam by clicking here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.
Disclaimer: The information and other content provided in our blogs, videos, or in any other content or linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For a full disclaimer, please click here.