Why do my Ankles and Feet Swell When I Fly on a Plane?

 

 

woman holding feet that hurt from a flight on an airplane

 

Many people experience feet or ankles swelling when they fly because sitting for an extended period with your feet on the floor like you do on a plane, makes it hard for blood to flow freely in your legs, which then leads to pooling of the blood in the veins of your legs.

In addition to this, this position also increases the pressure in the veins of your legs. When this happens, blood and other fluids move into the surrounding soft tissues, which in turn causes the swelling some people experience in their feet and/or ankles why they fly. This condition is referred to as gravitational edema and is typically harmless and usually only lasts for a short time once you land.

A few things you can do to take care of your feet and ankles

Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to help remedy your swollen feet and swollen ankles before, during and after you fly. They are pretty simple and just take a little planning ahead. 

Before Your Flight

  • Wear loose clothes like dresses or sweat pants when you fly.
  • Try to be active in your daily life. Travelers who exercise more in their life are less likely to experience this phenomenon compared to those without an active life.   
  • Seek medical attention before flying if you are at risk of getting blood clots. 
  • Get yourself a pair of compression socks. Compression socks are used to improve the flow of blood, reduce pain and swelling, and to lower the chances of contracting deep vein thrombosis.  
  • Put on comfortable shoes like a pair of flats, sandals or tennis shoes that have plenty of room for your feet. 
  • Drink plenty of water the day of your flight.

During Your Flight

  • Do not sit for more than an hour during your flight. Try to walk up and down the aisle every hour or so to relieve the pressure on your legs. 
  • Do not cross your legs for long periods of time. This restricts the flow of blood throughout your legs. 
  • Shift and change your sitting position as much as possible. 
  • When seated, try to extend and flex your knees, calf muscles, and ankles frequently. 
  • Dehydration will also lead to swelling, so try to stay hydrated throughout the flight. 
  • While drinking fluids during the flight is highly recommended, avoid alcoholic drinks or taking any sedatives. They will make you unsteady and even sleepy, making it difficult for you to move around the aisle.

After Your Flight

If you have a layover, try not to sit down again once you have deplaned. Walk around the terminal to exercise your legs and relieve the pressure. If you need to sit down, find an elevated place for you to put your feet up or a place to keep your legs stretched.

If you were in laced shoes, loosen your shoelaces and try to massage your feet by pressing the soles.

Another solution to relieve the swelling is by soaking your feet in lukewarm water with Epsom salts for 15-20 minutes. After that, try massaging your feet lightly and keep them in an elevated position when you are seated or lying down.

 

If you experience leg pain when flying

If you already know you will experience pain in your legs when flying, you can start by upgrading to a seat with sufficient room when checking in. If none are available, request for a seat next to an exit row. This will give you more room to stretch your legs during the flight. 

Additionally, keep flexing and rotating your feet and ankles, and walk around the cabin every 30-minutes or so. Combine these things with the suggestions above and it should help. I really like using compression socks and have loved these ones.

 

When to get medical help

After landing and resuming your regular activities, your feet and ankles should be back to normal within a few hours. If this does not happen, especially if you are experiencing pain of any kind, then seek medical advice. This could be a sign of more severe issues like deep vein thrombosis, which occurs when there are blood clots in your legs. 

 

Seek medical attention if

 

  • Swollen legs don’t return to their normal size within a few hours
  • If only one leg or ankle swells
  • You experience shortness of breath or chest pains in addition to pain or swelling

 

Hopefully, you have found this article helpful. There are things you can do to help your feet and ankles when you fly from becoming swollen. They might seem like a bother, but they will help. If you try them and are still having issues, definitely see a medical professional for personalized advice.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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