Airline Travel and DVT

If you travel often, you’ve most likely read about the increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) during air travel. Just what is DVT, and how can you prevent it?

A DVT is clotting of the blood in a deep vein, most often in the calves. Sometimes these clots break free and lodge in the arteries of the lung, causing what is called a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). PE can be life threatening.

You need to see a doctor if you develop signs of DVT. Possible signs of a DVT are pain, tenderness or swelling in the leg, skin warm to the touch and discoloration or visibly large veins. About 50 percent of people will only develop minimal signs of a DVT or show no signs at all.

Signs of a PE include shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting, increased sweating or anxiety, sharp chest pain, rapid pulse and coughing up blood. Any of these signs are cause to seek immediate medical care.

The correlation between air travel and DVT is due to immobility during the flight. Immobility is a risk factor of DVT, as well as injuries, inherited clotting disorders, infections and inflammatory diseases, oral contraceptives, pregnancy, cancer, smoking and obesity. Most persons who get a DVT are older than 60, but it can happen in young travelers, as well.

Here are some tips to help prevent a DVT while traveling: Stay well hydrated, avoiding alcohol and drinking plenty of water. Elevate your feet as much as possible on the plane, and walk a bit before the flight, as well as during it. Wear non-restrictive clothing and perform seat exercises and stretches. For info on exact exercises, check out www.dvt.net.

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