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Preventing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when traveling

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

For those planning trips involving long haul flights, awareness of deep vein thrombosis is important.

1. What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg. This condition can occur when traveling long distances by plane (or other vehicles), and with some airlines planning to reduce seat size further, the discussion of DVT has heated up recently.

Although studies have yet to prove a link between seat size and the likelihood of DVT, it is nonetheless important for long haul travelers to have some knowledge of this affliction.

When deep vein blood clots occur, they can cause redness, swelling, localized pain or warmth to the touch. However, in some cases they can cause no symptoms at all. The danger of these clots is when pieces of them break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE) which can be fatal.

PE symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heart rate, light-headedness or fainting. This is different from a stroke, in which clots block the arteries. When DVT and PE occur together it is called Venous Thromboembolism (VTE).

This condition is not only linked to air passengers, but in fact anyone who remains seated for prolonged periods, usually over 4 hours. It is in this situation when the risk of DVT increases. Think of sitting at a desk, in a car, on a train or on a bus.

2. Reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

For travelers, there are some ways to reduce the risk of DVT which can be considered when planning a trip.

Take note of the following tips:

  • Try to sit in aisle seats on long flights. If this isn’t possible, don’t be shy about asking your neighbour to let you out.
  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes.
  • Don’t fill the area under the seat in front of you with baggage. This should allow some room to move your feet and legs.
  • Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of water during your trip.
  • During times when you are awake, walk around the cabin of the plane to increase blood flow.
  • Try calf exercises while seated. Point your toes to the floor while raising your heels, or point your toes up with your heels on the ground. Repeat this several times.
  • If you are at higher risk of DVT, consult a doctor before your trip. The use of compression stockings or anticoagulants may be advised. Note that aspirin does not reduce the risk of DVT.
  • If you believe you are suffering from DVT or PE, seek medical assistance immediately. It is an emergency.

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