Summer holidays often mean sitting on a plane for hours. Doing nothing but reading or relaxing may sound tempting, but that’s not great for your feet and legs.
Swollen feet and ankles are always a possibility when you fly – a situation that can lead to blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Something you definitely don’t want to happen.
What Causes Swelling in Your Lower Limbs?
Lack of Movement
Sitting for prolonged periods mean your legs are barely moving so neither are your leg muscles. This isn’t good, as these muscles keep your circulation going by pumping blood and fluids around your body. If they’re inactive, circulation slows and blood gathers in your ankles, causing them to swell.
Dehydration is a common problem when flying and a condition that also hinders circulation.
Higher altitudes mean lower air pressure, and this substantially reduces oxygen levels in the cabin. In addition, humidity levels on aircraft are alarmingly high. Less oxygen plus high humidity leads to dehydration.
It’s also tempting to indulge in our favourite tipples in the airport bar or during the flight. Unfortunately, alcohol also causes dehydration and caffeine has a similar effect.
So How Do You Prevent This?
Watch What You Eat
Be careful with your diet before the flight – the day before and on the day itself. Salt causes water retention and makes your feet and ankles swell, so try to avoid it as much as possible. Steering clear of processed food and takeaways will modify your salt intake.
Drink Plenty of Water
This means the day before you travel, at the airport and on the flight itself. If you fancy a wee drop of something stronger that’s fine; don’t get carried away and keep going with the water as well.
This isn’t easy on a packed flight but by planning ahead it shouldn’t be impossible. If you have an aisle seat so you won’t need to worry about disturbing other travellers. Then you can get up and have a walk – ideally at least once an hour or twice if possible.
Have a Wiggle
Of course, if you’re not in an aisle seat it may be tricky to do this without disturbing someone. You can still move your legs and feet though. Squeeze and point your toes, rotate your feet at the ankles and raise and lower your heels every half hour. Do this for a few minutes each time. This should be possible even if legroom is limited.
Keep Your Legs Up
Use the footrest to elevate your feet as this stimulates circulation, and don’t be tempted to cross your legs. This impedes blood flow even further.
Comfy Shoes and Socks
Take your shoes off on the flight so they don’t compress your feet. If you’re wearing lace-ups make sure you loosen them to give your feet plenty of room. Compression socks are also handy as they encourage blood flow.
After the Flight
When you reach your destination give your legs and feet some extra attention to get everything moving again. Perk up your circulation simply by lying with your legs up the wall or going for a stroll around the block – the perfect way to stimulate healthy blood flow. A post-flight massage will also work wonders