There has been a lot in the press recently in about Deep Vein Thromboses (DVT) caused by flying long haul. The altitude and lack of mobility reduce the circulatory flow, especially to the legs and this can result in a clot form ing in one of the veins of the legs.
This is a potentially dangerous situation as when the clot is displaced it travels in the circulation until it reaches a restriction. In the worst case, the restriction could be the heart or the brain, where the blood vessels become smaller, and result in damage to one of those organs. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Those at most risk are people with poor circulation, low blood pressure, diabetes, Raynauds Disease, or women taking the contraceptive pill. Having said that, serious situations are unusual and flying remains a very safe form of travel.
There are precautions that one can take to reduce the likelihood of DVT occurring.
- Avoid drinking alcohol on a long flight. Instead drink plenty of bottle water. It will help to hydrate you and your skin will look fresher and healthier when you arrive!
- Get up and move around the cabin at regular intervals. If this is not possible, then do static tightening and relaxing exercises of the major muscle groups.
- Begin with the calves by pointing and pulling your toes and ankles. Try circling them one at a time.
- Tense your thighs as hard as you can and hold it for 10 seconds.
- Tense your bottom muscles and hold for 10 seconds.
- Stretch you arms high over your head, or slightly forwards if space is tight.
- Push both your hands away from you as hard as you can for 10 seconds, then do one arm at a time to stretch further.
- Take a deep breath through your nose. Breathe in long and low from your stomach for as long as you can. Hold the breath for 5 seconds and repeat once more only. (Over-breathing can make you dizzy.)
- Turn your head and shoulders around as far as you can in your seat, keeping your bottom fixed in the seat. Repeat on the other side.
- Slump down in the seat then stretch up as high as you can to stretch your spine – this will also help prevent back pain.
If your neighbours ask what you are doing, get them to join in. It’s fun, good for you, and it passes the time!
- Wear support tights or long elastic socks to help prevent ankles swelling. Other clothing should be loose and comfortable.
If you consider yourself to be in a high risk category, take a half an aspirin (only with the approval of your doctor).