Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Even if you are not in the high risk category, one’s medical history must be assessed by a competent medical practitioner in order to come to an accurate prognosis.
What is it?
Deep vein thrombosis is the formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the legs. It can have potentially fatal consequences if the clots break loose and pass through the lung (pulmonary embolism). Even non-fatal cases can mean significant emergency surgery to remove the clots.
The cause is sitting still in cramped seats for prolonged periods. Air travel is just about the perfect way to promote it. There can be symptoms such as pain, swelling and redness of the affected leg. However, this is not always the case, as some people don’t show symptoms.
How do you protect yourself?
Compression stockings / socks
These special socks are designed to keep the circulation up. When buying, be sure to have yourself measured as over-tight socks can cause problems as well. Also, unless you are considered at higher than average risk, these are not a must.
Doing regular exercise before going on your trip (if you are not in the habit of doing so already) is a good idea. The more fit and active you are, the less likely that you will be affected by DVT due to a long haul flight. It needn’t be anything heroic, a walk around the block or fifteen minutes on the treadmill at the local gym a few times a week will do the trick.
Be active on-board
Try to do something physical every hour during the journey: walk around, go to the toilet, even if it’s just to wash your hands. If you are one of us that belong to the group that do not like being the object of all bored eyes when you walk around, you can do foot exercises. This should be done even if you are wearing compression socks. Here are two examples:
• Foot lifts. Put your heels on the floor and bring your toes up. Hold for 30 seconds or so. Next, put the balls of your toes on the floor and bring your heels up. Hold for 30 seconds.
• Foot circles. Lift your feet off the floor and move your toes in circles. Do it for about ten – fifteen seconds, then change direction.
If you can’t sleep on a plane then adopt the attitude that this just gives you more opportunity to do exercises!
High risk conditions
Some of the known risk factors for you to consider are:
- Varicose veins
- Heart problems
- Undergone cancer treatment or surgery in the past 12 months
- Previous cases of DVT in yourself or your family
- Age: being over 40 is a mild risk by itself, being over 60 gives you medium risk and if you are 75 or older you are automatically at risk
Aspirin, which is so useful in treating other circulatory problems, is regarded as ineffective in treating DVT.
It is not expensive to take precautions. One of my passengers is a big man, around 50 years old, noticeably overweight and his feet swell when he is tired. He bought himself half-hose light compression (18-20 mmHg) socks for long-haul flights (over 8 hours) and elasticised anklet mohair socks with slight compression for medium distance flights (4 hours). For two hour flights he “just keeps his shoes on”.
Please always consult your doctor when in any doubt. The above is not to be taken as medical treatment advice but is supplied for information purposes only. Please refer to our terms and conditions on all information supplied on this site.