Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, has been recognized as a flight health problem since 1946. What is DVT and how can you help prevent it? the condition causes blood clots in the blood of the deep veins. This clotting usually occurs in the calf. If you are affected by DVT you will feel an intense, deep pain in the affected area and should immediately go to the ER or seek medical help on-board the plane. DVT can be fatal if a part of the clot breaks away and travels to the lungs. Remember that DVT may occur up to two weeks or more after you take a long car journey or fly. You may experience redness or swelling in the affected leg which is more painful when you walk or stand up.
You are more at risk of DVT if you are sitting immobile for long periods of time and you are also in an “at risk” group. This includes having surgery in the month before traveling, you have a family history of DVT, you are receiving treatment for cancer, you are obese, you have varicose veins, or you are pregnant. Older people are also more at risk of DVT.
If you are at risk, try to move and exercise at least every hour when you are flying. You can exercise your calf muscles when you sit down by doing leg exercises, rotations, elevations and twists. You can also use equipment for leg exercises. Don’t forget to get up, walk around the plane, stretch and generally extend the muscles every hour. Ask your healthcare adviser about exercises and look in the in-flight information or magazine. Airline staff can also help you with tips and advice on exercises in-flight.
Wear properly measured support hosiery for preventing DVT. The other clothing you wear should be loose fitting and cool. Make sure you drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration, which can put you at greater risk of DVT. Avoid tea, coffee, and alcohol. Remain hydrated before, during and after the flight. If you are worried, take advice from your doctor. The risk of DVT is small but important. Taking a few simple steps can cut this risk and help you enjoy a healthier flight.