Should You Wear Compression Socks When You Fly?

There's evidence that wearing the tight stockings may help prevent blood clots

If you’ve seen colorful knee-length stockings on your fellow air travelers lately, you may be spotting a pair of stylish (yes!) compression socks. Now offered in sporty or designer versions, they’re tighter-than-average socks that grow gradually looser toward the knee, worn by many passengers during flights. The idea is that they help circulate, or “milk,” the blood back up the leg to the heart, which can reduce swelling in your feet and possibly lower your risk of blood clots (also known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). 

Travelers who shouldn’t wear compression socks include those with peripheral artery disease or diabetes, says Haut; be sure to check with your doctor if you’re unsure.

They can be harder to pull on than normal socks, so many people put them on before they board rather than struggle with them in their cramped airplane seats. Zaleski suggests wearers “roll the top all the way down, like you’re putting on hosiery, then put the foot in and roll them up.” Then you're good to take them off right after the flight, once you're mobile again.

More suggestions for avoiding blood clots while traveling:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and adjustable shoes.
  • Make use of cabin overheads to leave yourself plenty of leg room.
  • Pass on the salty food, which can contribute to water retention.
  • Move: Take a short walk every hour or so. Rotate ankles, point toes and flex calves while seated. Elevate feet whenever possible.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Drinking lots of fluids can serve as a natural “alarm clock” to ensure you get up every so often.
  • Be cautious of sleep sedatives, which can result in sitting in one position for too long.

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