Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Explained

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Many of us are aware that moving around on a long-haul flight is a good idea. Some of us may have even tried the leg exercises airlines provide on their safety cards. But while we know it’s something we should do, the reason behind it all remains a bit of a mystery. The major reason is Deep Vein Thrombosis (or DVT).

But what is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located within the deeper locations within your body. Deep vein blood clots typically form in your thigh or lower leg, but they can also develop in other areas such as the pelvis.

What does this have to do with travelling?

In June 2007, the World Health Organization reported that the risk for DVT doubles for immobile passengers traveling for more than four hours. This is due to a stagnation of blood in the veins caused by prolonged immobility, which can promote blood clot formation in veins*.

Who is more at risk of developing DVT?

There are factors which make it more likely for someone to develop a clot which we should all be aware of. Those at greater risk include:

  • Smokers
  • Women taking oestrogen in the form of the Pill or HRT
  • Anyone with varicose veins
  • Anyone dehydrated
  • Anyone with mobility issues
  • Those aged 70+

How can you reduce your risk of DVT in-flight?

Move! By reducing activity in our legs blood flow can become sluggish in the deep veins – therefore putting us at a higher risk of a clot forming. Try to walk up and down the cabin aisle at least once per hour on a long flight.

Stay hydrated. When we don’t drink enough water, our blood becomes more concentrated. Concentrated blood coupled with a long period of inactivity will heighten the risk of a clot forming. So, it is vital to keep fully hydrated.

Wear stockings or socks. If you’re concerned about your risk of DVT it is recommended to wear properly fitted flight stockings or socks. These help speed up the flow of blood in the veins and therefore reduce the risk of the blood clotting.

When should you see a doctor?

DVT is a serious medical condition. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of DVT you should seek help from a medical professional right away. They will be able to check your symptoms, review your medical history and advise you of the best course of action.

If you believe you may be at risk of DVT and have a long flight coming up – speak to your medical professional as soon as possible as they can advise any preventative treatment options for you.

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