Commercial air flights cause airline passengers’ blood to become thicker and slow down, especially in the lower extremities, which can increase the possibility of developing blood clots. The longer the flight, the greater the medical risk. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by a blood clot forming in one of a person’s legs. This is a very serious medical emergency. If this dangerous clot breaks off, it may travel to the lungs which could be fatal.
A common misconception is that younger, physically fit athletes are less likely to develop deep vein thrombosis. Recent scientific research indicates that many people with a slower at rest blood flow, such as athletes, are actually more at risk than the general population. Having a history of swollen legs can also be a factor. Other people at risk are those that have, or have had, a serious medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Also, women that are pregnant, or on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, tend to be more prone to deep vein thrombosis. Obesity can also be a factor.
There are actually two sets of symptoms pertaining to deep vein thrombosis that you should be aware of. The first milder set of symptoms may appear during your flight or within the following couple of days. These symptoms are redness, swelling, tenderness, or cramps in one of your lower legs, or some swelling or bruising behind one of your knees. The second set of symptoms are more severe and usually appear within two or more days after a blood clot has formed. They are fainting, shortness of breath, rapid or painful breathing, chest pain which can be accompanied by pain in the shoulder, coughing up blood, and a fever.
What can contribute to these serious symptoms?
Deep vein thrombosis can occur in your lower legs anytime you are sitting in one position for a long time without moving your legs and feet. Some research shows that you are at three times the risk of developing this very serious medical condition when you fly. Driving, traveling by bus or train, or even sitting in your favorite easy chair at home can also cause it.
How can you, as an airline passenger, lessen or prevent this life-threatening condition from happening?
You can help prevent deep vein thrombosis from developing by increasing the circulation in your legs. If you are predisposed to any of the above risks, you may want to book an aisle seat to give you a little more room to move and enable you to easily get up and walk around at anytime without disturbing your fellow passengers.
Many experts suggest that when you fly you should wear loose clothing and avoid wearing tight fitting slacks or pants, as well as elastic support socks or stockings; moving and exercising your legs frequently while sitting; changing your sitting position often; not sitting with you legs crossed; walking up and down the aisle every half-hour or so, and drinking a sports drink such as Gatorade so you do not become dehydrated.
It is very common for deep vein thrombosis to be misdiagnosed which could be fatal. If you develop any of the above symptoms you must seek medical help immediately. Inform the doctor who is treating you that have just recently flown and you think that it could be a blood clot. If the physician doesn’t believe it is deep vein thrombosis, ask him to order an ultrasound of your leg to be sure. If you are experiencing any chest problems, insist that he or she do a simple and painless blood oxygen measurement on your finger. It only takes a couple of minutes and will prevent a serious misdiagnosis of your condition.
AirHealth.org, is an excellent website. This professional, non-profit organization is dedicated to your health when you travel on commercial airline flights. There is a lot of valuable up-to-date information and research on their website about deep vein thrombosis that could save your life. They also have a free wallet-sized flyer that you can download and take with you when you fly. This flyer is available in English, French, and Spanish.
Dorothy Yamich has a passion for travel. She has lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe as well as traveled in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. She is a travel consultant and specializes in luxury cruises as well as vacation packages. If you are looking for information on cheap airfares, fabulous discounted luxury cruises and great holiday deals, visit: http://www.traveltipsguide.com