Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis when Flying

What Is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein and blocks blood flow. It can happen when sitting in a confined space for long periods of time, like in an aeroplane. Many people want to snooze or watch several back to back movies on their in flight entertainment so may forget to walk around regularly. As I have the typical Gujarati trait of trying to get the best value of something, I am one of those people that will try to squeeze in several movies on a long flight! Whilst DVT is rare in healthy people, it is still possible and walking around can prevent these blood clots.

Who’s At Risk?

People most at risk of DVT include those who have had a stroke, cancer, heart disease or have a history of DVT. You’re also at risk if you are pregnant or have recently given birth, are taking pills which contain oestrogen (such as the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy), are overweight or have recently had a surgery. I had to take a plane journey shortly after an appendectomy in India, which is when I became more acutely aware of the importance of getting off my butt on a flight.

How Can I Prevent It?

If you are at increased risk, compression socks can help as they apply a gentle pressure on your legs to increase the blood flow. Other things you can do to reduce your risk are by walking around the plane whenever you can. Never mind disturbing the person at the end of the aisle; they should also be getting up regularly to have a walk (so really you’re being an angel by helping them without them realizing). Wearing loose comfortable clothes also helps as well as doing calf exercises every half hour or more regularly if you feel it is needed. Drinking water also helps and it will make you get up for the bathroom, thus forcing you to walk more.

Is It Really A Big Deal?

If you are on blood thinners like warfarin or apixabin for another condition, this may also reduce your risk of a blood clot anyway, but it is still important to get your calves moving. DVT can lead to serious complications such as heart failure if it goes untreated, so it can really affect your life. Whilst DVT can be rare in healthy people, it is worth getting in that leg movement for something easily preventable.

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