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Long Flights and Swollen Feet

Are you a frequent flyer? As you may have realised, long-haul flights could get notoriously uncomfortable, but even an hour or two in the air can lead to swelling in your legs. Being in a cramped space with little room to move your legs slows down your blood flow. Taking preventative measures helps reduce the risk of serious problems, such as blood clots, while exercise and a leg massage can cure basic swelling after your air travel.

Normal vs Swollen Foot
Normal vs Swollen Foot

Leg and foot swelling during air travel is common and typically harmless. The most likely culprit is inactivity during a flight. Sitting with your feet on the floor for a long period causes blood to pool in your leg veins. The position of your legs when you are seated also increases pressure in your leg veins. This contributes to foot swelling by causing fluid to leave the blood and move into the surrounding soft tissues. Cabin air pressure can also lead to dehydration, which makes your blood thicker and more likely to pool.

Ordinarily, the muscles of the leg, and particularly the calf, act as pumps to encourage the main veins in the leg to empty upwards.

Preventative Measures 

Before the flight – To improve your circulation on a flight, avoid salt the day before travel and wear loose clothing on the plane. If you’re at

Getting an end seat helps
Getting an end seat helps

risk of developing blood clots due to hormonal birth control or recent surgery, ask for an aisle seat so you can stand up and move around more easily. Store your baggage in the overhead bin so you have room to stretch out your legs.

During a flight – To minmise the swelling you should:

  • Keep active during the flight
    Keep active during the flight

    – Take a short walk every hour or so

  • – Flex and extend your ankles and knees frequently while you’re seated
  • – Shift your position in your seat as much as possible, being careful to avoid crossing your legs
  • – Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • – Avoid alcohol and sedatives, which could make you too sleepy or unsteady to walk around the cabin.

Treating with Excessive Swelling

Foot swelling isn’t a serious problem if it lasts only a short time. But excessive swelling that persists for several hours after you resume activity may be due to a more serious condition, such as a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis), especially if the swelling occurs in only one leg and is accompanied by leg pain. If you experience these signs and symptoms, seek prompt medical attention.

Flight socks help prevent blood clotsIf you’re at increased risk of blood clots because you recently had major surgery, or you take birth control pills for example, consult your doctor before flying. He or she may recommend wearing compression stockings during your flight. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a blood-thinning medication to be taken before departure.

There are a few folk who should not use support stockings. They tend to be older people with poor arterial blood supply to the legs. If clarification is needed on this, discussions can be held with your GP to confirm whether diuretics are a good idea during air travel for this sort of isolated problem. They might contribute to dehydration, which in turn can predispose to the blood clots in the legs.

If the return circulation is already a bit slow in these circumstances, it wouldn’t be sensible to dehydrate.

If, however, you are getting swollen legs in your everyday life, then that is something you need to discuss with your GP so that it can be investigated further.

How to Reduce Swelling after a Flight

If your legs are swollen from a recent flight, the smartest thing you can do is walk away the swelling. Muscle movement pumps fluids from

Leg Massage being done
Leg Massage being done

your legs and gets your blood flowing regularly again. Fortunately, exiting a plane usually means walking to the baggage claim carousel or the parking lot outside. And the first opportunity you get to prop your feet up and take off your shoes, give yourself a leg and foot rub to stimulate your circulation. Additionally, you can schedule a professional massage.

Well, a new year has begun, and I therefore wish everyone a Healthy and Prosperous 2016                                                                                                             

                     Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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