Abnormal build-up of fluid in the ankles and feet can cause swelling, also known as edema. Prolonged standing, long rides in cars or airplanes, being overweight or pregnancy are among the causes of swelling in the feet, ankles and legs, according to Medline Plus. The swelling may also indicate serious underlying conditions, such as a blood clot or an infection. See a doctor if swelling remains after you have tried your own remedies.
Swollen feet and ankles should be held above the level of the heart for about 30 minutes several times a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Lying down and keeping the feet elevated often helps. Women who are pregnant should also prop up their feet when sitting and avoid crossing their legs.
Avoid standing for long periods as much as possible. Prolonged standing causes fluids to pool in the ankles and feet, Medline Plus says. This is especially true for pregnant women, who are at an increased risk for swollen ankles and feet, according the website KidsHealth.
Foot exercises help reduce swelling, according to the National Health Service in England. Bending and stretching the feet vigorously up and down about 30 times pumps fluid back to the heart. Rotating the feet eight times one way and eight times the other way also helps.
Doctors usually recommend compression stockings when the feet and ankles are swollen. The stockings keep pressure on the legs so that fluids don't collect in the ankles and feet, the Mayo Clinic says. Pregnant women are advised to put on maternity stockings that go up to the waist each morning, according to KidsHealth.
People with swollen feet and ankles should avoid very hot and cold temperatures, which can make the problem worse, according to the Mayo Clinic. Avoid hot baths, showers and saunas, as well as too much sun exposure. But do keep the feet and ankles warm while dressing to go outside when it's cold, the Mayo Clinic advises.
Massaging the feet and ankles with firm pressure can help move excess fluid out of the affected area, the Mayo Clinic notes. Strong but not painful pressure should be used in an upward motion toward the heart.