Deep Vein Thromboses and airline travel have received way more press than they should, given the infrequent occurrence of the condition. I have never addressed the issue, but decided to now after reading a press release on PR Newswire that gives some great information on risk factors and prevention. DVT is a condition in which the person develops blood clots from prolonged sitting. This can happen with air travel, but extended car or rail travel can be a risk as well. The risk is the extended sit time, not the airplane. However, the risk of developing DVT is raised by approximately 12% by taking one long flight (around 6200 miles) per year.
You may need to take precautions if you:
- Are over 40 years old.
- Have already experienced blood clots.
- Have a family history of blood clots.
- Have or had cancer.
- Have certain blood diseases.
- Are being treated for circulation problems or heart failure.
- Are recovering from recent surgery (especially hips or knees).
- Have an inherited clotting tendency.
- Are pregnant.
- Are a new mother.
- Are taking a contraceptive pill (yes, it said PILL. It did not mention other forms of birth control, such as the Depo Provera shot).
- Are on hormone replacement therapy. (HRT)
If you have any of the above risk factors, you can use the following risk-reduction activities before traveling:
- Wear loose clothing.
- Find a comfortable position in your seat and recline if possible.
- Do not cross your legs when sitting (doing so compresses blood vessels).
- Leave the plane and walk as much as possible during layovers or stop points.
- Move at regular intervals to increase blood flow through the veins.
- Walk around on long flights (when permitted).
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, as it has dehydrating effects.
- Postpone long-haul flights for three months after hip or knee replacement surgery.
- Learn and apply in-seat exercises to ensure circulation is kept active with no blood stasis.
- Use of elastic/compression stockings has been recommended.
- Women taking contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy should regularly do the in-seat exercises, as well as consider the use of elastic/compression stockings.
- Obtain additional information from your physical therapist or
gynecologist if pregnant or nursing.