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The Traveler's Swollen Tootsies - Avoiding Foot Swelling In Transit

Updated on January 4, 2013

Swollen Feet - An Unanticipated Problem

Travelers can get swollen tootsies when they travel at length by car or plane. When traveling for hours on end, you may unexpectedly experience swollen feet. When not caused by a medical condition or allergic reaction (such as mild localized swelling from a bee sting), the general reasons one may experience this can be due to:

  • high salt intake
  • medication you may take
  • lack of circulation
  • constriction of the shoe wear
  • too much liquid intake of choices with sodium (canned soup, sodas, some canned vegetables, etc.)
  • a medical issue not yet diagnosed

These Items Can Help Avoid or Reduce Foot Swelling

What To Do To Reduce Swelling

For those who travel a lot, this can be difficult to correct but the best solution is to elevate your foot. If you are spending 12 or more hours daily on the road for work or on a long flight, this can be a difficult accomplishment. There are some things that can be done for quick relief - as you are traveling.

  • wear looser fitting shoes or flip flops to improve blood flow/circulation
  • take breaks as often as possible from driving to walk, jog, or run (even five minutes helps!)
  • if you are flying or on a train, walk up and down the aisle each hour or two
  • reduce salt intake hidden in fast food and junk food
  • stay off the sodas (many are filled with sodium!)
  • shift in your seat every hour - EVERY hour!
  • go to the bathroom when your body needs to - don't hold it!
  • some candies are high in salt - avoid them!
  • rotate your foot in both directions

You'll notice this list does not contain a couple of common "cures." That is because those extra choices are not always options while you are actually en route by plane, train, or car. However, they may be choices you would like to try once you are at your hotel or destination.

  • Wrap your ankle or foot. Since this is sometimes but not always recommended, a quick call to you doctor should satisfy you if you are unsure. A snug - but not tight - compression wrap with a stretchable, breathable bandage can help in this case.
  • Ice your swollen foot. Even a cold soda can help, if you are just cruising down the highway.
  • Elevate your foot. Use pillows under the knee and foot area whilst your leg is laid out straight. This helps the circulation.

A Doctor Explains Treating Swollen Ankles

Foot and ankle on ice.
Foot and ankle on ice. | Source

Don't Let Swollen Feet Go Unchecked

If your solutions do not improve the situation right away, contact a doctor as soon as possible. While the swelling in your feet might result from something innocuous, it also might be a sign of a more serious medical condition that warrants professional medical care.

The symptom of swollen feet is not limited to but can occur in the following conditions:

  • overweight
  • pregnancy
  • kidney disease
  • deep vein thrombosis
  • heart failure

Some people have died from feet swelling and lack of circulation. Though it is rare, it is possible so do not let swollen feet go unchecked for a lengthy period.


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    • Li Galo profile image

      Li Galo 5 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      Thanks AtlasSue, mbwalz, and talfonso for your comments!

    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      This is really beyond useful! I might be traveling to Atlanta in the fall for a business trip and perhaps take your advice to heart!

    • mbwalz profile image

      MaryBeth Walz 5 years ago from Maine

      This is a timely hub for me since I will be traveling by plane this summer. The last time I did, I was on a train all day, then slept and then on a plane and bus the next day. By the time I got home, I could barely bend my knees. The dr. had advised me to wear compression socks, but, well I was too young for those. Not this time! I will gladly wear them!!

      Voted up and shared!

    • AtlasSue profile image

      AtlasSue 5 years ago

      This is a great hub for those who travel and have already experienced this. I like the different provided tips for correcting/alleviating some of the side-effects experienced from it!