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8 Tips to Prevent Swollen Feet When Flying

airplane flying into sunset

Depending on how far you’re traveling by plane, you may be expected to stay seated for several hours at a time. Those who travel frequently by plane might suffer from swollen feet as a result of not being able to move around freely. While you can’t always get up to walk around depending on the size of your plane and on weather conditions, the best way to prevent your feet from swelling is to move around as much as you can to encourage blood flow.

Inactivity Causes Feet to Swell

When you sit down for long periods of time, the muscles that help pump fluid to and from your legs are less active. As a result, blood can pool in your feet and lead to discomfort and swelling. On top of not being able to move around much, the dry air being circulated on the airplane could also play a role in restricting healthy blood flow. If you’re not drinking enough fluids to keep your body hydrated, your blood will become even thicker, and worsen the swelling in your feet.

Are you a frequent flyer who tends to experience swollen feet when you fly? Take a look at the following eight ways to take good care of your feet when traveling by plane.

1. Consume Less Sodium Preflight

Before traveling by plane, try to avoid consuming salt as much as possible. Salt can accelerate the dehydration process, and can cause you to retain water -- both of which are factors that can lead to swollen feet. Avoid eating processed meals, and stick to eating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and other whole foods that lack sodium.

2. Drink Lots of Water

Water is key to preventing dehydration. Drink plenty of water before and during your plane trip to keep your body hydrated and to help prevent swollen feet. Avoid drinking sodas and sugary fruit juices, which could worsen dehydration. Plus, drinking plenty of water will give you more excuses to exit your chair to visit the restroom.

3. Walk Around as Much as Possible

Some airplanes may offer limited space in which you can walk around. But as soon as the seat belt lights go off, take a moment to stand up and walk up and down the aisles to get your blood circulating, especially on flights that last longer than two hours.

4. Store your Bags in Overhead Compartments

Try to avoid stowing any bags and luggage in the carry-on space down by your feet and legs. If you’re tall or have long legs, you could be cramping your feet into awkward, uncomfortable positions that could cut off blood flow and lead to swollen feet. Store your bags in the overhead compartment whenever possible.

5. Opt for the Aisle Seat

While you can’t always choose where you want to sit, ask the ticket attendant if you can have an aisle seat. An aisle seat will allow you to move your feet around more freely, as well as allow you to get up and walk around as often as you want during your flight.

6. Exercise Your Feet

If you’re unable to stand up and walk around due to flight and weather conditions, exercise you feet while sitting down. Point your toes up and down, then move them from side to side to promote blood flow and reduce the risk for swelling.

7. Avoid Crossing Your Legs

Crossing your legs can worsen problems with blood flow and circulation. Avoid crossing your legs at any time during your flight. If there’s an empty seat next to you, consider propping your feet across the seats to help prevent or relieve swollen feet.

8. Wear Comfortable Shoes

While you may be tempted to travel in style, wear the proper footwear to help reduce the risk for swollen feet. Wear comfortable, breathable athletic shoes, and consider wearing compression socks or hose. If you’ve got extra room in your carry-on bag, bring a pair of slip-on shoes that you can easily remove at any time on your flight so you can massage or exercise your feet.

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