With a evening chill in the air, the time has come for scores of senior snowbirds to start planning their winter escape to warmer climates. Many older adults will spend prolonged hours sitting in cramped cars, airplanes and recreational vehicles to reach their destination but sitting for long periods of time with feet down can put you at risk for swelling and blood clots.
With more than a million seniors heading to Florida each winter (82 per cent of them Canadian), traveler’s thrombosis is a real concern for older adults crammed into increasingly tighter airplane seating.
Sitting for too long can cause blood to pool in the leg veins which can result in leg and foot swelling. Usually the swelling does not indicate a serious problem but it can be uncomfortable, especially if you have removed your shoes for a flight or long drive and then can’t get them back on! Swelling that does not resolve after several hours of normal activity or seems much worse than normal could indicate a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis in the legs. Seek medical attention immediately if swelling is extreme or persists for longer than a few hours after moving around.
Blood clots are a concern following any major surgery and doctors may suggest using compression stockings or blood thinners while flying to reduce risk. Other risk factors for blood clots include obesity, poor circulation, heart disease and advanced age. Clots can form during travel and for up to 30 days following travel or other prolonged period of immobility.
Tips to help avoid leg and foot swelling:
- Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing
- Move around every hour or so if possible
- Flex and extend ankles and knees often while seated
- Flex calf muscles
- Shift your position frequently and avoid crossing legs
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid alcohol or sedatives while flying which may interfere with safe movement around a plane
Source: Mayo Clinic