We've all been there. Stuck in a long flight, cramped in coach. You finally land and discover your ankles have swollen to twice the normal size and maybe it even hurts to walk to baggage claim. Traveling is so rewarding once you’ve made it to your destination, but it can take a toll on your circulation. While the risk of developing blood clots on a flight is low, it goes up as travel time increases.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid getting swollen, heavy legs during long flights.
1. Move your toes and ankles – keeping your feet and ankles moving while sitting for long periods will encourage regular blood flow. Part of the problem of sitting for a long time is that gravity encourages blood to pool in your feet and ankles. Without fresh blood being delivered to your legs, they become swollen and painful. Moving your feet and legs about prevents the blood from collecting in this way.
2. Keep cool – many people notice a slight swelling in their fingers and toes after intense exercise or in hot weather. The same scenario can be replicated during a flight. When you are too hot, your veins dilate. Additionally, you are prone to sweat more, losing salt through the skin. This makes your veins less efficient at drawing blood from surrounding tissues, allowing blood and other fluid to gather in your legs. (Not good!)
Keep the air-conditioning above your head on, and if necessary bring along a hand held fan to keep your body temperature from spiking to high levels.
3. Wear copper compression socks!*
Copper compression socks apply the greatest amount of pressure around your feet and ankles, and then lessen that pressure as they travel up your leg. This encourages blood flow towards your heart, promoting healthy blood circulation. They also keep legs and feet sweat and odor free, which is a must for travelling. Although flight socks are not necessary for everyone, if you are prone to developing heavy, red or swollen legs when travelling, or suffer from varicose veins, you’ll feel an amazing difference!
5. Have a drink of water – Drinking alcohol and caffeine have dehydrating effects and promote toxin build-up in the bloodstream. Keeping hydrated is important for promoting good circulation, as well as encouraging the body to flush out toxins, which could cause pain in the legs. So, keep drinking plenty of water, which leads us onto our next tip…
6. Go for a walk down the aisle– after all that water, you may find that you don’t have a choice when it comes to this one. Take the excuse to go for a stroll down the plane, going to the furthest away toilet if possible. You should try to get up and stretch your legs at least once or twice during the flight, even if you don’t have that coveted aisle seat.