It’s the last Friday before the holidays and one of the busiest days to fly all year, if you are travelling to visit loved ones this weekend I wish you safe and smooth travels! Today felt like a good time to touch on the use of compression for air travel. Seasoned lymphies know all too well the need to be compressed when flying but for those who are unsure or at risk, this one’s for you.
One of the factors that helps our bodies maintain fluid homeostasis is the atmospheric pressure that is around us all the time. This external force keeps an appropriate tissue pressure for our amazing bodies to keep our lymph moving, especially when coupled with the internal force of our muscles contracting and arteries pumping. When sitting in an airplane for long periods of time, both forces are drastically minimized. Not only is the atmospheric pressure much lower but being confined to a plane seat means not contracting our muscles for long stretches of time. Hence the risk of air travel on those with impaired lymphatic systems.
The biggest rule for flying with lymphedema or if you are at risk of lymphedema (anyone who has had lymph nodes removed or radiation): Compression! Compression garments or bandages increase the hydrostatic pressure inside the tissue, working to counteract the loss of pressure during the flight. If you are at risk of developing lymphedema it is important to be properly fit for a compression sleeve and glove or stocking prior to travel and to make sure to wear it during the flight and for a couple of hours after landing. For those requiring heavier compression, short stretch bandages can absolutely be worn for air travel, but be sure to give yourself extra time to clear security!
Try to elevate if possible during airport wait times, practice diaphragmatic deep breathing and wear your compression!
Safe travels and Happy Holidays