There are a few risks when it comes to flying, especially flights that are long haul, one of which is deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT.
Deep vein thrombosis is the term used to describe the clotting of blood in the deep veins of the legs. Although sometimes DVT comes with symptoms such as pain and swelling in the leg, it is not uncommon for no symptoms to be present at all, making it a very difficult condition to discover. If you develop DVT, it is possible for the blood clot to dissolve naturally over time, however it could also extend up the deep veins, which can lead to some other serious conditions.
Why does this occur?
Deep veins are those that sit between the muscles, and moving your muscles by walking or exercising is what helps to pump blood up through these veins and back up towards the heart. When people are inactive, such as when they are sitting or standing still, there is a chance that the blood can stagnate in these leg valves, which eventually can lead to thrombosis, the clotting of the blood. If your legs are bent this can restrict the flow of blood even more. A classic example of this is seating in a plane seat for a long period of time, meaning that thrombosis is even more likely to occur. The longer you are sitting still, the more likely that thrombosis will occur.
If your blood is thick the chances rise yet further, which is why it is so important to make sure you are hydrated when on a plane, as it helps to keep the blood at a good thickness.
What can happen?
If the blood clot extends up to the deep veins, a few things can happen. The clot could get dislodged from the vein and be carried through the vein and heart and get lodged in your lungs. This process is known as a pulmonary embolism, which can cause chest pain. Those that block the main blood vessels to the lungs have known to be fatal.
Another scenario is the thrombosis can cause blockages in the veins, or damage the veins valves, which can lead to serious swelling as skin problems in the leg.
How likely is this to happen?
For the majority of people, the risk of developing DVT when going on a long haul flight is minimal, however there are a few people who are more at risk than others.
How to avoid DVT when flying
For those that want to see the world or have to travel for business, a long haul flights may be unavoidable. Therefore, there are certain measures you may want to consider taking to help reduce your chance of developing DVT when flying, so that it doesn’t have to impact your travel plans.
- Move around - this is the most common prevention tip you’ll hear when learning about how to prevent DVT, and it is easily achieved. Move your feet up and down at the ankles, stretch your legs while sitting down and when standing up, and if possible, get up and walk up and down in the cabin. This is the simplest thing you can do, as it stops blood stagnating in your deep veins.
- Stay hydrated - The best way to achieve this is to drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine wherever possible.
- Compression stockings - Wearing compression stockings are an effective way to help prevent DVT, and they have the added benefit of preventing swelling in the ankle. You can find several quality compression socks available on Amazon, including Physix Gear which have received more five star reviews than any other compression socks on Amazon.
- Using a travel footrest like HANGAR can help with DVT prevention, and can be used by multiple types of transportation in addition to planes. This travel footrest enables you to sit with your legs elevated, as the hammock attaches to the seat in front of you, allowing for more travel comfort. The travel hammock is made of lightweight materials, is compact as is made of durable materials, all of which make it easy to pack and take with you on a long haul journey.
- For additional tips on how to make the most of any long haul flights and stay comfortable during your next journey see, 10 ways to survive long haul flights.