How to Deal with Swelling on Airplanes


Think back to the last flight you took. You probably had to stand in an array of lines, get frisked by an enthusiastic TSA agent, and hunt for a power outlet for your dying phone — all before you even boarded the plane. I’m just going to say it: being on a plane isn’t the glamorous experience that the commercials and in-flight safety video make it out to be. If the screaming babies and kids don’t get to you, then how about the curiously sticky seatback tray or your neighbor who is taking up enough elbow room to warrant buying a second seat? Again, as if you needed to deal with any of that, then comes the dreaded moment in the flight where your legs decide to do their best impression of a can of biscuits. That’s right, I’m talking about swelling. And unlike the crying babies and annoying person next to you, there are steps you can take to make sure you don’t have to deal with swelling on an airplane.

Why do we swell on airplanes?

Have you ever wondered why your feet swell on airplanes? Any time you aren’t moving around, your blood begins to just collect. Movement helps circulation, and in case you haven’t noticed, there isn’t a lot of movement you are allowed to make on an airplane. Sitting for longer periods of time, especially in an uncomfortable position, puts you at risk of swelling.

In addition to restriction of physical activity, the pressure from being in an airplane doesn’t exactly jive with circulation. There is not a lot of air to breathe at ten’s of thousands of feet above the ground, which is why airplanes are pressurized with oxygen. This pressure, while it allows us to breathe and stay conscious, is just one more thing that makes it difficult for our blood to circulate perfectly while in flight.


With all of these extra fluids trapped in your feet, you might think that passing on your one or two free in-flight beverages would help with your swelling — WRONG! Not drinking enough water depletes your body of the fluids needed to keep your blood at the right consistency. Dehydrated leads to thicker blood that is harder for your body to pump, especially when it is pooling up in your feet. Drink plenty of water the day before and the day of your flight.


Some nutrients can help your swollen cankles while others just make the situation that much worse. Too much sodium (salt) can cause your body to retain too much liquid. Airports aren’t known for their healthy food options, so you have to look for items that are low-sodium. That being said, maybe skip the in-flight peanuts or pretzels and hold out for something better when you land.

Some nutrients can help improve circulation and even prevent swelling. An easy solution to swelling is to simply increase your Vitamin B6 intake. This nutrient has been proven to reduce water retention and can be found in several foods and supplements like Kyani Sunrise. Another nutrient you need to increase is potassium. Potassium naturally removes sodium from our bodies through urine. You can increase your potassium intake with the help of supplements or even by eating a banana.



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