Traveling with Lymphedema

flightThe holiday season is one of the busiest times for travel. If you have lymphedema, flying can be stressful. Changes in air pressure, the dry air on the flight, and restrictive seating can exacerbate lymphedema symptoms, but, with proper planning, you can minimize discomfort and swelling during and after your flight.  We’ve compiled some helpful tips (from NLN and breastcancer.org) for anyone traveling with lymphedema:

  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight. You can save money by packing an empty water bottle in your carry-on and filling it up in the airport once you’re through security. The air on airplanes is especially dry, so you will need to drink more water than usual.
  • Pack healthy snacks – Most airports sell a lot of unhealthy, salt- and preservative-filled foods that will dehydrate you. Avoid the hunt for healthy food and pack some vegetables or a granola bar, so you have something easily on hand when you get hungry. Remember – you’re allowed to bring food into the airport and onto your flight from home – just no liquids.
  • Get an aisle seat – If you’re drinking enough water, you’re going to need to head to the restroom at least a few times during your flight. Avoid awkward interactions with your neighbors and get that seat in the aisle.
  • Upgrade to a seat with more leg room – If you have lymphedema in your lower extremities, having a few extra inches of leg room can be incredibly helpful.
  • Move around as much as possible (another reason to get the aisle seat!) – Sitting for long periods of time will slow your circulation and allow fluid and blood to pool. Get up and walk the aisles if you can.  Pump your fists in the air every hour to make sure your arms get movement too.
  • If you have a connection between flights, take that opportunity to really stretch and walk around the airport as much as possible.
  • Pack light – lifting heavy luggage on your own can irritate LE in your arms and legs. Bags with shoulder straps can also cut off circulation in your upper body and increase swelling. Try to pack a light-weight, rolling suitcase to avoid these problems.
  • Last, but not least – wear your compression garments or bandages – The NLN recommends wearing at least 20-30 mmHg of compression for upper extremities and at least 30-40 mmHg for lower extremities. Put your compression garments on before you leave and keep them on for at least a few hours after you land. Talk to your doctor or therapist before you go to plan which garment is right for your trip. If you’re on an overnight flight, you might want to wear a night garment like Tribute instead of regular compression hosiery or armsleeves

Readers – do you have any other tips?

Photo courtesy of tudydamian.