Ways to promote foot and leg care when flying

23rd July 2017 by Daryll Baker0
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Being cramped up in a tight space without much room to move when flying, does not do the condition of our feet or legs any favours. In fact, being stationary for a lengthy period of time on a flight, means the muscles that pump fluid out of our legs are not active, which can cause our feet to swell.

This is coupled with the low pressure and dry air circulating the cabin, both of which inhibit the flow of blood. It is therefore not uncommon for people to suffer from swollen feet when they land.

Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to help prevent swollen feet when flying and promote feet and leg care.

1 – Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water

Staying well hydrated during a flight by drinking plenty of water will encourage the body to get rid of toxins in the bloodstream, which can lead to pain and swelling in the feet and legs. Drinking plenty of water is also likely to mean you need to visit the bathroom during the flight, which will also help exercise your legs and promote a healthy flow of blood.

2 – Sit in a position that doesn’t restrict the flow of blood

It can be tempting to slouch and curl up in your seat during long-haul flights. Though to prevent the restriction of blood flow, which can lead to fluid building up in your legs instead of being pumped to the heart, try and sit in a good position without slouching or crossing your legs.

3 – Walk around the cabin

Make the effort to get up every now and again during the flight to move and stretch your legs, particularly if you are on a long-haul flight. When going to the toilet, opt for the one that is furthest away from your seat, to give your legs some exercise.

4 – Avoid eating too much salt

Salt can cause us to retain fluid, which can lead to the feet swelling. Try to avoid eating too much salt both before and during the flight.

5 – Exercise your feet

You can still exercise your feet whilst sitting on a cramped aeroplane seat! Rotate your feet in a circular motion at regular intervals throughout the flight. Point your toes up and down and from side to side to help get the blood flowing through your legs and to your feet, to help prevent them from swelling up.

6 – Massage your feet

It might not be the height of luxury but kick off your shoes and treat your feet to a good massage to keep the blood flow stimulated and prevent any swelling.

If you are really concerned about swelling feet during a flight, you could always ask the cabin crew if you can have an aisle seat so it will be easier for you to get up and move around.


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Daryll Baker is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital London and Clinical Lead for North Central Region Vascular Services.

He read Medicine at Oxford University and trained in Vascular Surgery in Nottingham, London and Edinburgh. He obtained his research PhD from the University of Wales.

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