Sure, your long-haul holiday flight may be a great opportunity for catching up on movies, but it also means sitting in one position for an extended amount of time. Here, DR JOHN TAN of The Vein Clinic shares some tips on what you can do to help reduce your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) at 20,000 feet.
DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in your leg, causing pain and swelling – and, possibly, serious complications if left untreated. According to Dr Tan, there are three key factors that lead to blood clots:
Whether you’re on a long plane or train journey, or bed-bound due to an injury or ill health, inactivity reduces blood flow through the veins in your legs.
2. Damage to leg veins
This can occur due to an injury, surgery or as a consequence of phlebitis (inflammation).
3. Conditions that increase blood thickness
Dehydration, oral contraceptives and other medications with oestrogen, and certain medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease can cause an increase in blood thickness, which can, in turn, lead to a blood clot.
It’s really no surprise, then, that long, international flights are conducive to the formation of deep vein thrombosis, as sitting for extended periods of time, and at such a high altitude, can lead to both inactivity and dehydration. Dr Tan also points out that being overweight, smoking and pregnancy are other DVT risk factors, in addition to simply getting older; blood clots are more likely over 60 years old, he says.
So, what steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of clot formation while flying? Dr Tan recommends:
- Keeping well-hydrated and avoiding alcohol
- Wearing compression stockings
- Wearing loose, comfortable clothes
- Trying not to cross your legs
Taking short walks when possible Performing leg and foot exercises while seated He also notes that patients with a history of deep vein thrombosis, or those with a strong family history of DVT, should consider taking blood-thinning medication before a long flight
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