Sitting through a long flight can be a challenge for several reasons. You might feel cramped, you might get jetlag from traveling to another time zone and boredom sets in pretty quickly. However, there are more dangerous risks associated with long flights as well – specifically, deep vein thrombosis. People on long flights are at risk for developing this condition, so it’s important to understand how it occurs and take steps to avoid it. In this article, you’ll find some background information on deep vein thrombosis and the best prevention tactics.
Deep vein thrombosis, sometimes referred to as DVT, occurs when a blood clot forms in a major vein of the body. This condition occurs most often in the legs and can often develop as a result of sitting still in for long periods of time. Several factors come into play to make DVT more of a threat for those flying for several hours. The way that your legs are positioned while flying, the low cabin pressure and the likelihood that dehydration will occur and thicken the blood all puts you at risk for developing these types of blood clots. If the clot were to break loose, it could get lodged in your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. A large enough clot can be fatal, so it’s important to take steps to prevent this condition from occurring.
Though people flying for long periods of time are at a higher risk for developing a DVT, there are methods to help actively avoid them. Here are some of the ways that you can help prevent yourself from getting a DVT while flying:
It’s important to note that people with certain health conditions may be at a higher risk for DVT than others who are also flying for long periods of time. If you have chronic heart or respiratory failure, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer or an inherited or acquired predisposition for developing clots or varicose veins, you are among the most susceptible to DVT. Additionally, people who are over the age of 40, obese, pregnant, smokers and those who have recently undergone major surgery or have been bed-ridden have a higher risk as well. If you take contraceptives or are undergoing hormone replacement therapy, your risk for DVT may also be increased. Individuals who fall into these categories should be especially vigilant about preventing DVT.
Deep vein thrombosis can be difficult to detect, but swelling, pain or warmth in the ankle, foot or leg are some of the common symptoms. If you suspect that you may have a DVT, see a doctor right away.
Additionally, travelers should be aware of the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, which could occur when a DVT clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs. If you become suddenly short of breath, experience chest pain when taking a deep breath, feel lightheaded or dizzy, cough up blood or develop a rapid pulse, get medical attention right away.
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