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Deep Vein Thrombosis

Following the publicity surrounding a recent report by the House of Lords on the effects of air travel on health, many people are evaluating their personal risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a clotting of the blood in the deep vein of the lower leg. If a clot develops in the veins, it usually makes its presence known by a pain in the affected calf.

Medical attention should be sought immediately if this occurs, especially after a long flight. In some cases this can become fatal if the clot breaks off and makes its way to the lungs where it can then affect the lung's ability to take in oxygen.

It is hard to establish just how many people are affected by DVT after a long flight as no official records are kept. However, it is important to be aware that it is a potential risk to any traveller due to the facts we already know.

  • Those in a high risk category should see their doctor before they travel and discuss prevention - smokers, pregnant women, elderly travellers, those who are overweight, women taking oral contraceptives, individuals who have undergone recent surgery, as well as those with an existing medical condition.
  • Some people in the "at risk" category mentioned above should discuss with their health professional the possibility of taking a small dose of aspirin before they fly.
  • These days, the personal entertainment available on many airplanes encourages us to stay rooted to our seats. However, try to exercise at least every half an hour on long flights to exercise the muscles pumping blood back to the heart. This might mean rotating your ankles, or getting up for a quick walk up and down the aisles.
  • Even though DVT is often referred to as "Economy Class Syndrome", passengers in first and business class are equally at risk. The risk also applies to other forms of travel, such as coach or bus travel where you stay seated for hours at the time.
  • Travel Socks are an effective way of assisting your body's natural mechanism of returning blood to the heart. They work by applying a gentle graduated pressure on your ankle and calf.
  • Loose clothing is essential on a long flight. Because of the change in atmospheric pressure in a plane, parts of your body can expand due to increased gas! Allow room for expansion with loose fitting clothing.
  • It is a well-documented fact that too much alcohol, tea and coffee on flights causes dehydration. Also bear in mind that air in a plane is very dry and the temperature warmer that we might normally have it at home. It is therefore very important to remain hydrated during a long flight by drinking plenty of water and fruit juices.
  • Do not cross your legs, it restricts the blood flow! Remove your shoes, relax and enjoy your flight!

Flight Goods are available at The Health Station.