Flying With Lymphedema

We made it home from Florida after a two-hour drive and a 4 ½ hour plane ride.  Chloe traveled like a champ in the car, but once we got on the plane all bets were off.  Actually, she did pretty well on the flight, she just didn’t want to sleep more than a half hour.

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Much of the flight was spent walking up and down the aisle with Chloe, which probably took an extra toll on my leg.  By the time we landed, my right ankle and thigh felt tight and heavy.  I always wear my compression stockings on flights per the National Lymphedema Network’s recommendation, but it seemed like my leg swelled more quickly because I was standing so much.  If you are not aware of the tips for traveling and flying with lymphedema, the National Lymphedema Network lists them here.

Some of my own habits when flying are theses:

  1. Wear a compression stocking when flying.  I had a bad experience with severe swelling during and after a flight because I thought I would be ok without wearing a stocking.  Huge mistake!  I ended up contracting cellulitis a week later and spending the weekend in the hospital.
  2. Wear loose fitting clothing.  This is mostly for comfort but I also think it helps my circulation.
  3. Get up and move around.  I like to get up at least every hour to help my muscles “pump” the fluid collecting in my leg (and everywhere else).  Also, while seated I like to do exercises such as pointing and flexing my toes and also extending and flexing at the knee.
  4. Try to choose a seat with legroom.  Not always possible but I’ve figured out a few tricks.  On Southwest, they allow me to pre-board so that I can choose the very front row seats.  These seats allow me to put my leg up on the wall in front of me and keep it elevated throughout the flight.
  5. Get plently of rest before and after the flight.  I know that flying and traveling takes a toll on my leg, so I prepare beforehand by getting plenty of rest at night and especially the day before I travel.  Once I’ve arrived at my destination, I usually go right to bed or at least take time to elevate my leg for a few hours.
  6. Travel with my Flexitouch.  I don’t use this machine in flight, but I absolutely use it during my vacations and trips.

Since arriving home, I’ve managed to rest enough the last couple of days for most of the swelling to go down but my leg is still feeling a little heavy.  I’ve made sure to get plenty of sleep the last couple of nights (9+ hours) and to keep my leg elevated as much as possible throughout the day.  I feel like I always need to take a day or so after traveling to recover from the additional swelling.

Running report: I attempted to do my six-mile run yesterday… but I managed to only reach four miles.  Honestly, I was a little disappointed in myself for giving into the fatigue at four miles, but I made myself remember that this a journey and I can always attempt the six miles later this week.  I need to get the swelling completely under control, and maybe focus on better nutrition before my next attempt.

After traveling, do you take an extra day or so to let your lymphedema recover from the trip?

What helps you recover quickly?

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