Air Travel Tips How To Prevent DVT Blood Clots While Flying
Follow these air travel tips to prevent a blood clot in the leg (called deep vein thrombosis or DVT) while you’re flying, plus learn common blood clot symptoms to look out for.
Millions of people fly every day, but not many know about a dangerous air travel-related health risk known as deep vein thrombosis (also known as DVT or “economy class syndrome”). The serious health condition, which happens when long periods of inactivity like flying lead to the formation of a blood clot in the leg, affects travelers of all ages — especially those who are on long-haul flights or long train and car trips that call for passengers to stay seated for several hours at a time.
Fortunately there are several ways to prevent DVT, including obvious things like wearing compression stockings and not so obvious things like drinking wine. For a full list of travel tips that can help reduce your risk of forming blood clots in your legs during long flights, as well as the typical symptoms of blood clots in the legs, click through the gallery above.
Assess Your Risk And Plan A Doctor Visit
Not everyone carries the same risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. For example, those who have diabetes, cardiac insufficiency, varicose veins or are overweight carry a much higher risk of developing the condition. Pregnant women and people over the age of 60 also have an increased risk of developing DVT, especially during long periods of travel. If you believe you are at risk of developing DVT, you should visit a doctor before traveling for his or her advice. He or she may decide to prescribe an anticoagulant or blood thinning medication to help reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your legs.
Note: Most medications that help DVT need several days to take effect and therefore need to be taken 2 to 3 days prior to departure.
Drink Plenty Of Water
One of the healthiest ways to prevent travel-related DVT is to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your flight. Normal air humidity typical falls within the 40 to 60 percent range, but it’s a measly 15 percent on an airplane. Therefore, passengers can loose comparatively more moisture through breathing and mucous membranes than when they’re on the ground. To prevent your blood from thickening and the vein walls from expanding, drink plenty of fluid — especially water.
As for whether or not alcohol counts as liquid, most experts agree it’s totally fine and does not increase your chances of developing DVT. In fact, some studies have shown that because alcohol thins your blood, it can actually help prevent DVT. Just don’t go overboard (for lack of a better term); alcohol has a much stronger effect high above the clouds than on the ground.
Use Your Legs
Be sure to use every opportunity to keep your legs moving while you travel. During your flight, take frequent bathroom breaks or short walks around the plane. Have a layover? Rather than sitting at a café, explore the airport on foot.
Try Some Foot Exercises In Your Seat
If you’re totally unable to get up and walk around, be sure to keep your blood flowing by stretching and flexing your legs while seated. Try spelling words in the air with your toes or rolling your ankles in circles or in an up and down motion. You can also lift your knees off the seat and swing your legs back and forth to keep your blood moving.
Remain Smoke Free
Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis because it leads to faster blood clotting and narrow blood vessels. Therefore, travelers are advised to stop smoking. Can’t quit completely? At least try drastically reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke in the weeks leading up to your travel date, which can help control your risk of DVT.
Wear Compression Stockings
If you’re worried about developing deep vein thrombosis during travel or if you're at a high risk for developing the condition, you may want to wear compression stockings. The special socks help reduce foot and leg swelling as well as create pressure that reduces the chance of your blood pooling and clotting.
Blood Clot Symptoms To Be Aware Of
No matter what steps you take to reduce your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis while flying, there’s still a chance a blood clot might form in your legs. Typical symptoms of DVT include pain and swelling in the affected area.
While a blood clot itself isn’t dangerous, the reason DVT is considered a serious condition is because the blood clot could break loose, travel through the bloodstream and end up lodged in the lungs (a potentially fatal condition called pulmonary embolism). Typical symptoms of pulmonary embolism include a rapid pulse, chest pain, sudden shortness of breath, lightheadedness, coughing up blood and possible fainting. If you experience these symptoms while flying, you should immediately inform a flight attendant.
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