Air travelers are at much higher risk of developing a circulatory issue called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) than non-flyers. DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein that can develop after sitting on long flights. Passengers sitting in coach are particularly vulnerable because of the limited amount of space in which to move their legs, though this issue affects business and first-class travelers as well. Each year in the United States, some 600,000 new cases of DVT are diagnosed, with 1% of these people dying. It’s important to take steps to prevent DVT, particularly while doing a lot of flying. DVT does not necessarily strike while you’re up in the air. The riskiest time to develop DVT is in the two weeks after a flight according to Veins1.com.
Before Your Flight
Ask your doctor if he or she recommends the use of compression stockings. These can help increase circulation particularly if you’re at high risk of developing DVT. Get properly measured for these stockings so that they provide a comfortable fit. Try on the stockings with the shoes you intend to wear during the flight.
During Your Flight
Move around! Sitting scrunched up with your knees to your chest for long periods of time is not only uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous especially if you’re at risk for DVT. Do what you can in the narrow airplane aisles … walk back and forth, do some toe-lifts against a back wall and try to do a few stationery lunges from the back of the plane. Try to move around every hour or so during a long flight.
Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids such as water and juice. Dehydration can result in the thickening of blood and the narrowing of vessels. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks as they can be dehydrating.
Engage in exercise at your seat. Point your toes up and then down to a flat position. You can also try flexing your leg muscles and lifting your knees periodically throughout the flight. Rotating your ankles is another good way to keep the blood flowing. Don’t cross your legs or ankles as this restricts blood flow.
After Your Flight
See your doctor immediately following a trip if you have any signs of DVT. These may include swelling in one or both legs, leg pain or tenderness, red or discolored skin or warmth in the leg that’s affected. If you feel a bump in your leg, do not try to massage it out. See your doctor first.
Half of all DVT patients show no symptoms.
As with any other medical issue, check with your doctor to get their expert advice on DVT.