The reason your feet swell on an airplane

Traveling, whether for business or for pleasure, often has a few side effects that you weren't counting on when you planned your trip. One of those things that can pop up during air travel is swollen feet. Why do your feet swell while you're on a plane, anyway? 

Thankfully, the folks at the Mayo Clinic note that leg and foot swelling during air travel is quite common and it's usually not a big deal. The main reason it happens is because we sit on our butts and don't move around. Basically, sitting down for long periods of time, with your feet firmly planted on the floor, causes your blood to pool in those faraway veins in your legs.

Weirdly enough, this makes your feet and legs swell because the fluid in your blood actually exits your veins and takes up residence in the tissues of your legs and feet, leading to cankles and sausage-y looking lower bits. 

Ways to prevent or relieve foot swelling on a plane

Happily though, there are ways you can prevent — or relieve — swelling in your lower extremities during a flight. First off, don't wear tight-fitting anything, especially tight socks and shoes. Second, remain active. This can be annoying during a flight, especially if the beverage cart is blocking your path, but experts recommend taking a short walk at least once an hour.

You can also work your legs and feet while sitting, which is important because you can't (and shouldn't) put your feet up on your neighbor's seat. Flex and extend your ankles and knees frequently while you're on your bum, and also flex your calf muscles on a regular basis. You can also make it a point to shift your position in your seat frequently, and do not, under any circumstances, cross your legs. 

Drink water, and avoid alcohol — you'll be more hydrated, and you won't run the risk of stumbling around during your hourly jaunt around the cabin.

While most foot and leg swelling problems are temporary — and not a cause for alarm — if you experience excessive swelling that hangs on for more than a couple of hours after you disembark, it could be a sign of a more serious issue that needs medical attention. An even greater red flag is if it's just one leg that looks or feels wonky and is accompanied by redness or pain. 

Otherwise, your swelling will eventually go down once you hop off your plane.