Tips for preventing deep vein thrombosis on long flights

9th July 2018 by Daryll Baker0
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Are you going on a long flight this year? Are you concerned about the health risks when flying, such as deep vein thrombosis?

Long-haul flights can pose problems to our health, such as dehydration, jet lag and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT are blood clots that form in the deep veins, which aren’t visible on the skin.

DVT develops when, due to inactivity, the blood pools and thickens into a clot. Such clots are more likely to develop in the lower part of the body. Due to sitting still for a long period in a confined space, long-haul flights put travellers at greater risk of developing DVT.

Some passengers are more at risk from DVT when travelling. Conditions that may increase your risk of developing a blood clot on long flights or journeys, include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • History of DVT or pulmonary embolism
  • Recent surgery of the legs/pelvic region
  • Thrombophilia
  • Obesity
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Pregnancy

However, by carrying out some simple and straightforward steps, you can help reduce the chances of developing blot clots on long flights.

  • Keep moving

It is important to keep moving as much as you can during a long flight. Every couple of hours stand up from your seat and walk up and down the aisle to get your blood circulating around the body and therefore making clots less likely to form.

  • Think about your clothing

Wear loosely-fitted clothing that is comfortable and doesn’t put pressure on your circulatory system.

  • Drink plenty of water

Drink water regularly throughout the flight to keep you well hydrated. Avoiding drinking alcohol or too much tea or coffee, which can dehydrate you.

  • Do anti-DVT exercises

Do anti-DVT exercises throughout the duration of the flight. Such exercises include stretching your toes in the air, flexing your feet and holding this position for several seconds. The Coalition to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis recommends stretching your hamstrings regularly during a long haul flight too help prevent clots.

If you would like advice or want to find out more about treatment for conditions that affect the veins, contact the vascular health specialists at the Vascular Consultancy.


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Daryll Baker is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital London and Clinical Lead for North Central Region Vascular Services.

He read Medicine at Oxford University and trained in Vascular Surgery in Nottingham, London and Edinburgh. He obtained his research PhD from the University of Wales.

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