Air Travel and DVT (Deep Venous Thrombosis)
In June 2007 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the results of a study “Global Hazards of Travel”. The results confirmed that the risk of developing a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and possibly a pulmonary embolism doubles after air travel lasting four hours or more. During air travel blood flow slows and coagulability rises. Reasons for this include the high cabin altitude and the low humidity which causes dehydration. Passengers taking multiple flights over a short period of time were found to be at an even higher risk. It was also determined that the risk remained elevated for up to four weeks after each flight.
DVT is a condition in which a blood clot develops in a deep vein – usually in the lower leg. Symptoms include pain, tenderness and swelling to the affected part of the leg. The most serious complication of a DVT is that the clot could dislodge and travel to the lung which is called a pulmonary embolism. This may produce severe chest pain, cardiac arrest and rarely death.
Do not be mistaken by thinking that it will not happen to you because you are young and fit! Airhealth, an organisation collating reports from passengers on the medical risk of air travel, recently suggested that 85% of air travel thrombosis victims are athletic, usually endurance-type athletes such as marathoners or Ironman participants. These are people with slower-resting blood flow who are at greater risk for stasis, which is stagnant blood subject to clotting. They are also more likely to have bruises and sore muscles that can trigger clotting.
How to Prevent DVT
To prevent DVT during air travel, you must take proper precautions in order to stimulate your blood circulation. Experts recognise that blood circulation can be promoted by:
- Exercising the calf muscles with up and down movements of the feet at the ankle joints while seated.
- If possible, exercise your legs regularly by walking up and down the aisle.
- Simple, recommended steps include not wearing tight clothing, knee braces etc.
- Wear proper and correctly fitted medical graduated compression stockings!
- Do not take sleeping pills or drink alcohol or coffee. Stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty non-alcoholic fluids, preferably electrolytic beverages (sports energy drinks).
- Sleep for short intervals only and keep feet elevated, if possible.
Compression Stockings and DVT
Compression stockings contribute to prevention of DVT in two ways:
- By constricting the diameter of veins, the stockings increase the velocity of blood flow (to maintain a given flow of liquid through a constricted pipe, the velocity has to increase. This avoids the sluggish flow that is conducive to clotting.
- The compression also helps keep fluids in the blood circulation instead of collecting in the lower legs, causing the swelling that can make it difficult to get your shoes back on after a flight.
At Hands On Lymphatics & Massage Therapy Ltd we will measure you into a pair of good quality, comfortable and durable flight socks. Come to see us preferably two weeks before your flight is scheduled. That will enable you to wear the socks a few times at home, so you get used to the compression that these socks provide.
Please note that certain conditions or medications may increase this risk of blood clots or may be a contraindication for wearing compression stockings. You may need to see your doctor first.
Prevent DVT (deep venous thrombosis). Contact us today for a FREE consultation for correctly fitted medical graduated compression flight socks.
- “WHO Research Into Global Hazards of Travel (WRIGHT) project, final report of phase I”. Geneva, 29 June 2007
- Hamada, Koichiro et al “Effects of Hydration on Fluid Balance and Lower-Extremity Blood Viscosity during Long Airplande Flights”. JAMA. 2002; 287: 844-845. 20 February.