How Long Does Water Retention Last After Flying

If you’ve ever taken a long flight, you may have noticed some temporary water retention or swelling in your hands, feet, or ankles after landing. This is a common occurrence that typically goes away within a few days.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Water retention after air travel usually lasts between 1-5 days for most healthy adults. Staying hydrated and moving around can help reduce swelling faster.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss what causes water retention after flights, how long it lasts, who experiences it more severely, and tips to minimize or resolve it quickly.

What Causes Water Retention After Flying

Water retention, also known as edema, is a common condition that affects many people after flying. It occurs when excess fluid builds up in the body’s tissues, leading to swelling and discomfort. Several factors contribute to water retention after a flight, including:

Cabin Pressure Changes

One of the main causes of water retention after flying is the change in cabin pressure. As the plane ascends and descends, the pressure inside the cabin fluctuates, which can affect the body’s fluid balance.

The decrease in cabin pressure at higher altitudes can cause blood vessels to expand, leading to fluid leakage into the surrounding tissues. This accumulation of fluid can result in swollen feet, ankles, and hands.


Another factor that contributes to water retention after flying is immobility during the flight. Sitting in a cramped seat for an extended period can hinder blood circulation, causing fluids to pool in the lower extremities. This lack of movement can also lead to muscle stiffness and discomfort.

To combat this, it is recommended to periodically stretch your legs, walk around the cabin if allowed, and perform simple exercises to promote blood flow.


Dehydration is a common problem during air travel, as the low humidity levels in the cabin can cause moisture to evaporate from the body at a faster rate. When the body is dehydrated, it tends to retain water as a protective mechanism. This can result in bloating and swelling.

It is essential to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the flight to stay hydrated and reduce the risk of water retention.

It is important to note that water retention after flying is usually temporary and resolves itself within a few days. However, if the swelling persists or is accompanied by severe pain or other symptoms, it is recommended to seek medical advice.

Taking certain precautions, such as wearing compression socks, staying hydrated, and moving around during the flight, can help minimize water retention and make your journey more comfortable.

How Long Does Water Retention Last After Flying

Water retention, also known as edema, is a common occurrence after flying. The changes in cabin pressure and sitting for long periods can cause fluid to accumulate in the body, leading to swelling in the feet, ankles, and hands. But how long does this water retention last? Let’s explore:

1-2 Days for Most Healthy Adults

For the majority of healthy adults, water retention after flying typically lasts for 1-2 days. Once the body adjusts to the regular pressure and activity levels, the excess fluid is gradually eliminated through urine and sweat.

Staying hydrated, moving around during the flight, and avoiding excessive sodium intake can help reduce the duration and severity of water retention.

Up To 5 Days for Some

However, it’s important to note that water retention can last longer for some individuals. Factors such as pre-existing medical conditions, age, and overall health can influence the duration of water retention after flying.

In certain cases, it may take up to 5 days for the body to fully recover and eliminate the excess fluid. If you experience prolonged or severe water retention, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.

When to Seek Medical Care

In rare cases, water retention after flying can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. If you notice persistent swelling, pain, or discomfort that doesn’t improve within a few days, it’s important to seek medical care.

This is especially crucial if you have a history of heart, kidney, or liver problems, as these conditions can contribute to fluid retention. A healthcare professional can evaluate your symptoms, conduct necessary tests, and provide appropriate treatment if needed.

Remember, while water retention after flying is common and usually harmless, it’s always best to listen to your body and seek medical advice if you have any concerns.

Who Experiences More Severe or Longer Water Retention

Older Travelers

Older travelers may experience more severe or longer water retention after flying due to various factors. As the body ages, it may become less efficient at regulating fluid balance, leading to increased water retention.

Additionally, older individuals may have pre-existing health conditions, such as heart or kidney problems, which can further contribute to fluid retention. It is important for older travelers to stay hydrated and move around during the flight to minimize the effects of water retention.

Those with Circulation Issues

Individuals with circulation issues, such as venous insufficiency or lymphedema, may be more prone to water retention after flying. These conditions can affect the body’s ability to properly circulate fluids, leading to swelling and fluid buildup.

It is recommended for people with circulation issues to wear compression garments and elevate their legs during the flight to improve circulation and reduce water retention.

People Taking Certain Medications

Some medications, such as corticosteroids or certain blood pressure medications, can cause water retention as a side effect. If you are taking any medications that may contribute to water retention, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider before flying.

They may be able to provide recommendations or adjustments to your medication regimen to minimize the effects of water retention.

Pregnant Women

Pregnant women often experience water retention due to hormonal changes and increased blood volume. Flying can exacerbate this water retention, leading to more pronounced swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.

It is important for pregnant women to stay hydrated, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and try to elevate their legs during the flight to reduce water retention.

Overweight Individuals

Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of water retention after flying. Excess weight puts additional pressure on the body’s circulatory system, making it more difficult for fluids to be properly distributed and eliminated.

It is crucial for overweight individuals to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and manage their weight to reduce the likelihood of water retention.

Tips to Reduce Swelling After Flying

Water retention, also known as edema, is a common issue that many people experience after flying. When you’re up in the air, the changes in cabin pressure can affect your body’s fluid balance, leading to swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs.

If you’re wondering how long water retention lasts after flying, it can vary from person to person. In most cases, the swelling subsides within a day or two, but for some individuals, it may take longer.

Stay Hydrated

One of the best ways to reduce water retention after flying is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight. This helps to flush out excess fluids from your body and prevents dehydration, which can worsen swelling.

Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate you.

Get Up and Walk on Long Flights

If you’re on a long flight, it’s important to get up and walk around periodically. Sitting for extended periods can contribute to water retention and swelling. Take advantage of opportunities to stretch your legs and move around the cabin.

Doing so promotes blood circulation and helps reduce fluid buildup in your lower extremities.

Do Light Exercise After Landing

After you land, consider doing some light exercise to further reduce swelling. Take a short walk or do gentle stretching exercises to get your blood flowing and stimulate lymphatic drainage. This can help alleviate water retention and promote faster recovery.

Elevate Your Feet

When you’re sitting down, elevate your feet to help reduce swelling. You can prop them up on a pillow or use an elevated footrest if available. Elevating your feet above your heart level helps to improve blood circulation and prevent fluid accumulation in your lower extremities.

Drink Herbal Teas

Some herbal teas, such as dandelion or parsley tea, have diuretic properties that can assist in reducing water retention. These teas help to increase urine production and eliminate excess fluids from your body.

However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any herbal remedies.

Consider Compression Socks

Compression socks can be beneficial in reducing swelling after flying. They apply pressure to your legs, enhancing blood circulation and preventing fluid buildup. Consider wearing compression socks during your flight, especially if you’re prone to water retention.

Avoid Alcohol and Salty Foods

Alcohol and salty foods can contribute to water retention, so it’s best to avoid them before and during your flight. These substances can lead to dehydration and worsen swelling. Opt for healthier food options and drink plenty of water instead.

By following these tips, you can minimize water retention after flying and ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable travel experience. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.

When to See a Doctor

Water retention after flying is a common occurrence due to the changes in cabin pressure and the body’s response to it. In most cases, water retention is temporary and resolves on its own within a few days. However, there are certain situations when it is advisable to seek medical attention.

1. Severe swelling

If you experience severe swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet that is accompanied by pain, redness, or warmth, it could be a sign of a more serious condition. This could indicate deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in a deep vein.

DVT can be life-threatening if left untreated, so it is important to see a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.

2. Difficulty breathing

If you have difficulty breathing or experience chest pain after flying, it could be a sign of a pulmonary embolism. This occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs and blocks blood flow. Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

3. Persistent or worsening symptoms

If your water retention symptoms persist or worsen despite home remedies and self-care measures, it is a good idea to consult a doctor. They can evaluate your condition and determine if there are any underlying causes that need to be addressed.

4. Pre-existing medical conditions

If you have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, kidney problems, or liver disease, it is important to be cautious and seek medical advice if you experience water retention after flying. These conditions can increase the risk of complications and may require additional treatment.

5. Recurrent or frequent water retention

If you frequently experience water retention after flying or if it has become a recurring issue for you, it may be worth consulting a doctor. They can assess your overall health and provide recommendations to help manage and prevent future episodes.

It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. If you are unsure about whether or not to see a doctor for your water retention symptoms after flying, it is best to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice.

Remember, your doctor is the best person to provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation.


In most cases, minor swelling after air travel reverses on its own within 1-5 days at most. Drinking fluids, walking periodically on long flights, and engaging in light activity after landing can all help minimize temporary water retention.

However, if swelling is severe, persists beyond 5 days, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms like pain or trouble breathing, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out blood clots or other complications.

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