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Foot swelling during air travel: A concern?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/foot-swelling/HQ00722
- With Mayo Clinic emeritus hypertension specialist
Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.read biographyclose window
Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.Sheldon Sheps, M.D.
Dr. Sheldon Sheps, emeritus professor of medicine and former chair of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension in the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, has been with Mayo Clinic since 1960.
Dr. Sheps, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, native, is board certified in internal medicine and specializes in hypertension and peripheral vascular diseases. He developed a multidisciplinary approach with specially trained nurses, dietitians, technicians and educators to help form a team approach to the treatment of patients with abnormal blood pressure.
"I have always believed in involving the patient and family in their health care," Dr. Sheps says. "I have asked for their understanding of the illness and issues and for participation in decisions. The Web is a natural extension of that, and now many more people can be informed."
Dr. Sheps chaired the sixth working group, and he participated in the fourth, fifth and seventh groups that developed the then-latest guidelines for hypertension under the auspices of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). He helped write the latest American Heart Association (AHA) report on blood pressure measurement. He chaired an AHA group that produced an online accreditation for blood pressure measurement for health professionals.
Dr. Sheps has co-authored books, newsletters, CD-ROMs and other Mayo Clinic health information material. He joined Mayo Clinic's Web team in 1998. He was medical editor-in-chief of both editions of the "Mayo Clinic on High Blood Pressure" book; the last edition was published in 2003. He was also medical editor-in-chief of "Mayo Clinic 5 Steps to Controlling High Blood Pressure," published in 2008.
In addition, Dr. Sheps was section editor for each of the first three editions of "Hypertension Primer" for the American Heart Association.
Dr. Sheps was also chairman of the Science Base Subcommittee and the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, and he was a consultant to the Hypertension Initiative of the World Health Organization. In 1997, he was honored with the Individual Achievement Award on the 25th anniversary of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program of NHLBI. In 2009, he was honored as a Distinguished Mayo Alumnus.
- Foot swelling during air travel: A concern?
- Hand swelling during exercise: A concern?
Foot swelling during air travel: A concern?
What causes leg and foot swelling during air travel?
from Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.
Leg and foot swelling during air travel is common and typically harmless. The most likely culprit is inactivity during a flight. Sitting with your feet on the floor for a long period causes blood to pool in your leg veins. The position of your legs when you are seated also increases pressure in your leg veins. This contributes to foot swelling by causing fluid to leave the blood and move into the surrounding soft tissues.
To relieve foot swelling during a flight:
- Wear loosefitting clothing.
- 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.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives, which could make you too sleepy to walk around the cabin.
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.
If you're at increased risk of blood clots — because you recently had major surgery or you take birth control pills, for example — consult your doctor before flying. He or she may recommend wearing compression stockings during your flight. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a blood-thinning medication to be taken before departure.Next question
Hand swelling during exercise: A concern?
- Bauer KA, et al. Overview of the causes of venous thrombosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 14, 2010.
- Prout M, et al. Preflight patient assessment. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 14, 2010.
- Acosta RW, et al. The pre-travel consultation. In: Brunette DW, et al., eds. CDC Health Information for International Travel 2010. Atlanta, Ga.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service; 2009. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-2/deep-vein-thrombosis-pulmonary-embolism.aspx. Accessed Dec. 14, 2010