How to Avoid DVT When Flying Overseas


Minimise Your Risk and Arrive Refreshed

If you’re a frequent air traveller, whether for work reasons or simply because you enjoy a good holiday or two, you may already have been warned about deep vein thrombosis, which is also known as DVT. While others of you may not be so familiar with this health condition and the many dangers it poses, it’s always a good idea to be aware of all the important facts, regardless of how often you fly.  Although the results of previous studies regarding the issue have been divided, the general consensus of health experts is that people who are already susceptible to the condition may present a higher risk of developing DVT when travelling on long-haul flights.

It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, so if you’re preparing for a long flight in the near future, be sure to check out our useful guide below on DVT. We’ve compiled a handy list of tips and tricks for your reading pleasure, that can help to lessen your chances of developing DVT while you’re cruising in the air.


What is DVT?

Blood clots occur when blood thickens, clumps together and forms a blockage in the bloodstream. A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg, effectively preventing the healthy flow of blood in this area. Although deep vein blood clots can transpire in other parts of the body, most often they occur in the lower or upper leg.  Developing DVT in the thigh is particularly dangerous, as this can result in the risk of pulmonary embolism, also known as PE. PE is a serious condition that occurs when the blood clot, or thrombus, detaches from the inside of the vein and travels through the bloodstream to become lodged in the pulmonary artery. As the pulmonary artery is the main blood vessel to the lungs, the thrombus can potentially cut off the supply of healthy blood to this area of the body, thereby damaging the lungs and causing death.

Air travellers who spend large periods of time sitting in one position can be particularly susceptible to developing DVT, as their legs are often confined to a small area that allows for very little mobility. At times it can be difficult to pinpoint the specific development of DVT, as the condition may yield no visibly felt symptoms. However, if you do notice a feeling of pain, swelling or tenderness in your leg while you are seated, especially when you extend your foot, this is a good indication that you should get some movement going in the leg area in an attempt to stimulate normal blood flow.


How to Avoid DVT

Being immobile for even short periods of time can cause DVT, so it’s important to take caution while travelling to ensure that you are still able to exercise your limbs and muscles, especially those in your legs, in some manner. DVT is a common medical problem in Australia, and statistics have shown that there are up to 400 deaths every year in the country, resulting from pulmonary embolisms.  While it’s true that only a small number of these are associated with air travel, employing the following tips and tricks will at the very least ease your stiffness and discomfort while travelling, and at best significantly lessen your chances of developing DVT.

  • If you think you might have a higher risk of developing DVT, pop into your GP’s office for a consultation before embarking on a long flight. In serious cases, anticoagulants may be prescribed, in the form of heparin injections that thin the blood and can help to decrease the risk of clotting. However, this method is not suitable for everyone, so the best thing to do is to seek professional advice beforehand. Otherwise, your doctor might recommend compression stockings, which exert gentle pressure on the leg muscles and help to prompt the healthy flow of blood to the heart.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, ideally water. As tempting as it may be to reach for the coffee and chardonnay, stay away from alcoholic and caffeinated beverages both before and during your flight, as they will only dehydrate you. Sleeping tablets will further limit your mobility, so it’s a good idea to also avoid taking these if possible.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes that will allow for optimum movement and that won’t be restrictive around your waist and legs.
  • Stretch out your legs as often as you can. Practice anti-DTV leg exercises that will stretch out your calves, heels and toes every half hour, and if it is safe to do so, get out of your seat and take a walk around the cabin every hour or two to get your blood pumping.

DVT is becoming an increasingly common medical condition, so whether you’re on a short flight or you’re in it for the long haul, it’s important to keep your muscles as limber and active you possibly can. Frequent flyers in particular need to take care that their regular stints in confined aircraft spaces aren’t impacting their overall mobility too significantly.

For more helpful information on other travel-related issues, watch this space for more helpful tips at Compare the Market.


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