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Recommendations for Air Travel


The following are the precautions you should take to help present lymphedema does not side-track your trip.

The  recommendation in this article are based on the National Lymphedema Network (NLN) position statement on air travel. http://www.lymphnet.org/pdfDocs/nlnairtravel.pdf


Compression sleeve and glove.

  • When in flight, the cabin pressure will be less than the atmospheric pressure on the ground. For the individual with lymphedema, the decreased cabin pressure can cause painful increased swelling in the affected limb.
  • An individual who has been confirmed as having lymphedema, should always wear a properly fitted compression garment when they travel by air. Wearing a properly fitted compression garment helps to prevent this problem and the necessary garments should be donned well before boarding the plane.


There is more to fitting a compression garment than checking numbers on a box on a pharmacy shelf. Also a garment that does not fit properly can cause serious problems in the affected limb. Therefore, a compression garments must fit well!

  • A well trained lymphedema therapist, or fitter, is trained to properly take the necessary measurements, and to obtain a garment of the proper size and compression, for you.
  • The compression in a garment is not the same along the entire limb. Compression in the wrong places can be painful and damaging.
  • Since It may be necessary to order a custom garment and this is more expensive; however, it can be an excellent investment because it can prevent painful lymphedema related problems.
  • Your compression garment should be left in place from 1 to 3 hours after deplaning to allow tissue pressures to equilibrate.


According to the "NLN "Air Travel Position Paper, if you have had lymph nodes removed, or had radiation treatment, but have not yet developed lymphedema, wearing a properly fitted garment is still a recommended precaution. 


  • Wearing a LYMPHEDEMA ALERT BRACELET or NECKLACE is always a good idea. It is particularly important when traveling. Sources of these helpful ages are listed on the home page.
  • Pack lightly so you don’t have to lift a heavy suitcase or roll-aboard bag.
  • Put the recommended compression garment on before the flight. Then leave it in place for 1 to 3 hours after deplaning. This precaution allows the tissue pressure to equilibrate.  
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Such beverages, when combined with the low humidity of the air in the plane, tend to increase the dryness of the tissues.
  • Drink plenty of water during the flight. It is prudent to carry your own drink bottle with you.
  • Move about during the flight. If you can’t get up and move, use a series of exercises that can be performed while seated.
  • In addition to increasing the risk of increased swelling, moving your legs during the flight reduces the risk of developing blood clots.


Newer planes are better designed to maintain "normal" air pressure. This should mean that compression garments should not be necessary; however until these planes with better control are more wildly available, it is recommended that you wear a compression garment to protect yourself. Also remember to keep the garment on for approximately one to three hours after you have landed and left the plane.


It has been reported, that some airlines do not charge for transporting your lymphedema pump if you bring it with you packed in the manufacturer's bag. This information has not been documented and you may want to contact the airline in advance to learn their policy.


NLN Air Travel Position Paper

© LymphNotes.com 2012.This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'Living With Lymphedema' forum.
Category: Living With Lymphedema Updated: 2012-07-12


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