With globalization shrinking our world even further, a lot of us find ourselves aboard long flights for journeys. Did you know that these long journeys could pose a serious health risk? Not just flights, these health risks are equally possible in any bus, train or flight journey that lasts longer than 4 hours. Let’s have a look at how long flights could give you blood clots (called DVT) and how to avoid blood clots on long flights:
What is DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition where blood clots form in the deep veins (blood vessels carrying impure blood) of your legs. This is commonly seen when you sit still in a confined space for long periods of time. This clot is a clump of blood cells which is attached to the lining inside of your veins. This clot may dissolve on its own or may grow in size. Occasionally, it may even break off from the vein and travel along with the rest of the impure blood to your lungs. In your lungs, this may block off some blood vessel resulting in serious illness which may even be fatal. (All from just sitting!)
Am I at risk for DVT? Risk factors for DVT:
Not every person who travels long distance develops a blood clot. Certain factors put you at an added risk for developing a blood clot:
- Age more than 40 years
- Being over weight
- Having had surgery or an injury in the last 3 months
- Females who are pregnant, or are on birth control pills or on hormone replacement therapy for menopause
- If you have had blood clots before or have someone in the family who has blood clots
- If your mobility has been limited lately, say due to a plaster cast
- If you suffer from varicose veins
- If you have cancer or have undergone cancer treatment recently
How do I know I have DVT? Symptoms of DVT:
A blood clot in a deeper vein may not give you any symptoms at all (Talk about silent killers!). This is most commonly seen in fifty percent of the people who suffer from DVT. The most common symptoms are:
- Swelling of your leg
- Pain in legs or pain on touching the muscles
- Redness or warmth of the skin over the leg
If the blood clot has travelled into your lungs, you may experience symptoms like:
- Having trouble breathing
- Chest pain which becomes worse on coughing or taking a deep breath
- Fainting episodes or light headedness
- Coughing up blood
- Heartbeat that is irregular or faster than normal
Any of these symptoms should alert you to rush to a hospital immediately as timely intervention can save your life.
How can I prevent Blood Clots? Tips to avoiding blood clots on long flights:
- If you have been sitting for a long time, take a break and stretch your legs. If you have a seat near the aisle, take a walk every hour.
- Elevate your legs whenever possible.
- If a walk down the aisle isn’t possible, extend your legs straight out and pull in your toes by bending at the ankle. You should feel a pull along the back of your calf muscles.
- Alternately, you may pull up each knee towards your chest and hold it there for about 15 seconds. This should then be repeated with each leg. All these activities will help keep your blood circulating and will prevent your blood from stagnating into a clot.
- Another way to exercise your calf muscles is by repeatedly going up on tip toes while standing.
- You may talk to your doctor and find out if you need to wear compression stockings.
- Stay hydrated by drinking at least 1 litre for every 5 hours of journey.
- Avoid consuming alcohol as this makes certain blood cells (called platelets) even more sticky, thus promoting clot formation.
- Wear loose clothes while travelling
- · Avoid sitting for long hours with crossed legs
The next time you are on a long journey, remember doing nothing may be hazardous! Do let us know in the comments section, if you found this article useful. Do share this with a friend or colleague who is a frequent traveler. If you have any medical queries, feel free to get in touch with Dr Rajesh Shah’s associate doctors at LifeForce Homeopathy. You may give us a call at +91-22-66888888 or drop in an email at email@example.com
– Dr Amrita Sodhi, Associate Doctor to Dr Rajesh Shah, LifeForce Team