Are you worried about flying with varicose veins? That’s perfectly natural, but we’re here to help. After all, plane travel can take a toll on anyone’s health (and patience) but, for people with vein disease or compromised vascular systems, it can be particularly dangerous. (Long road trips could also spell trouble.)
And both of these travel modes are especially risky if severe varicose veins have left you with edema (swelling in your legs.) Fortunately, your vein health issues don’t have to keep you grounded. So, if you choose to fly, or even if you’re stuck sitting for a long drive, follow these eight tips for long travel with vein disease:
1. Rock your compression socks while flying with varicose veins
Anyone with a history of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), stroke, cancer, or heart disease; anyone who’s recently had pelvic or leg surgery; or anyone who is pregnant or obese is particularly at risk of having a health problem on a flight–especially if the travel time is eight hours or longer. Anyone in this higher-risk category should talk to a doctor before flying. Most likely, your doctor will emphasize the importance of getting up regularly during your flight.
You will also likely be fitted for compression socks, which come in a variety of styles and sizes. These garments offer outside pressure that helps your veins fight gravity and get pooling blood moving. Plus, they can help get your calf muscles pumping harder, making it easier for blood to get out of your legs and feet and up to your heart.
Remember compression levels, come in a range of pressure levels. (They’re measured in mmHg, similar to your blood pressure.) Before you travel, be sure to ask your vein specialist how much force is necessary to keep you safe. Compression socks are important for air travel because they improve your circulation while reducing the risk of swelling and blood clots!
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
It’s important for all travelers to up their liquid intake on flights, but it’s crucial for people with vein problems. People tend to dehydrate on planes, and dehydration can actually make your body retain its remaining fluids. Of course, fluid retention and swelling go hand in hand, and swelling can cause problems with blood clots. To avoid this domino effect, start drinking as soon as you board the plane, and keep going throughout the flight. Bonus? You’ll probably have to use the restroom more often, which will help ensure your continued movement while in the air!
3. Get a Leg Up
Stuck in the terminal during yet another flight delay? Or able to contort your body a bit in your seat? Try elevating your feet to get blood flowing out of your feet and legs and up to your heart. Use your carryon luggage, or even the seat-back tray as a prob, and get those feet above your heart whenever you get the chance.
4. Sneak in a Mid-Flight Workout or Take a Road Side Break
There are many times during a flight where getting up and walking around is simply not an option. But we know that movement is a crucial part of preventing blood clots. So what’s an air traveler to do? Sneak in a workout–without ever leaving your seat! Try this simple sequence whenever you remember, and your veins will likely stay in good shape throughout the flight: Extend both your legs, moving both feet in a circular motion. Next, bring one knee at a time up to your chest, holding the position for a minimum of 15 seconds. Finally, return both feet to the floor and point them upward. Lift both your heels as high as you can, and hold for as long as is comfortably possible.
5. When in doubt, flex your feet
You don’t have to get up to protect your veins during travel. Instead, you can flex your feet while seated–that will help keep up your circulation. To get the benefits, just pull your toes back towards your body. Hold for 10 seconds, then point your toes for another 10 seconds. Switch feet back and forth a few times, and you’ll get some of the benefits of the mid-flight exercises we just reviewed. Without disturbing your seat mate or getting any strange looks.
6. Look for Leg Room
While it costs more, upgrading your seat to enjoy a little legroom could really make a difference to your vein health. Because, even if you’re not in first class, more room makes it easier to move your legs. And moving your legs more will lower your risk for clots or other vein issues while you travel.
7. Skip the Sleeping Pills.
So many of us swallow a sleeping aid after takeoff so we can snooze away the hours in flight. But that’s a big problem for your veins. Because if you deeply sleep through your flight, you won’t get up and move. Instead, aim for cat naps. Interrupted by plenty of activity breaks. (Go back to point three for tips on what to do during those breaks.)
8. Pick Safe Travel Outfits
It may be tempting to wear your cutest outfit if you’re seeing family or friends at the airport after months of distancing. But steer clear of tight jeans or even fitted yoga pants, as both can restrict your blood flow. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothes that won’t put any extra pressure on your legs or feet. That way, your blood can flow without restrictions. And you can always pull off an outfit change just before landing if you prefer a different look.
9. Treat Varicose Veins Before Flying
What’s the safest way of flying with varicose veins? That’s actually a trick question. Because your safest bet is to seek varicose vein treatment before boarding an airplane. What does that mean for you? Well, if you’ve got a plane reservation coming up (or if you’re just dreaming of travel), don’t wait. Make an appointment today with our Houston vein specialists. We’ll discuss your vein health options, suggesting treatments that could make it safer to fly, or even sharing guidance to get you through your trip until you have time to treat those spider veins!
Sources: National Blood Clot Alliance