Leg and foot swelling during air travel is common and typically harmless. The most likely culprit for swollen feet is inactivity during a flight. Sitting with your feet on the floor for a long period causes blood to pool in your leg veins.
Low cabin pressure as well as dry air circulating throughout the aircraft may also inhibit blood circulation and cause swollen feet. When you’re dehydrated, your blood gets a bit thicker, which also reduces circulation. Additionally, the way your legs are positioned when you are seated also increases pressure in leg veins by causing fluid to seep into surrounding soft tissues.
6 simple ways to relieve foot swelling during a flight
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes and socks.
- 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 for extended periods.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives.
Bonus tip: Long lines, unexpected mad dashes, and getting through airport security are vexing enough. Avoid additional discomfort and hassle by wearing comfortable shoes and you can easily slip on and off!
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.