When you go on long flights, you always read about DVT, but like most people I’m guilty of not knowing all the facts about it. I’ve put together this short guide to help you understand DVT, how to prevent it, and what symptoms to look out for.
How to Prevent DVT on Flights
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition and it is important to take preventative measures wherever possible. If you have previously had DVT or at risk of having it, it is important to speak to your doctor before you consider any long haul flights. There are things you can do if you are planning long journeys (by plane, train or car), typically of 6 hours or more. You should ensure that you:
- wear compression stockings or socks
- drink plenty of water
- do some simple leg exercises
- take short walks wherever possible
- don’t consume excessive alcohol, and this can dehydrate you
- try not to take sleeping pills, as you aren’t likely to walk around as much
It is vital that you take out travel insurance, this is just in case you need to cover any health care costs while you are abroad, especially if you have a preexisting medical condition. It’s always handy to have for a number of other reasons.
There are a number of other things you can do, even if you are not travelling for a while, just to ensure you are healthy and prevent you developing DVT in the future by making some simple changes to your lifestyle such as:
- eating a healthy and balanced diet
- not smoking
- maintaining a healthy weight
- regular exercise
What Causes DVT
Sometimes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur for no reason at all. There are however some circumstances that can cause an increased risk of developing it. During times when you are inactive, for example when you are on a long flight, blood tends to collect in lower parts of your body, which is often in your legs. Usually this isn’t a concern, because when you move around again, your blood flow increases again and moves around your body.
But, if you are not active for a long period, for example if you have had an injury or surgery, your blood flow can slow down a lot. This increases the chances of blood clots forming. If you or a close relative has had DVT before you are at risk of developing it, the chances are also increased if you are:
- over 60
- a smoker
- over weight
Sometimes there may be no symptoms, but if there are some it could include:
- aches in the affected area
- tenderness and swelling in your leg, commonly the calf
- some redness to your skin, usually the back of your leg
DVT commonly affects one leg, however there have been occasions when some people are affected in both. The pain could increase if you bend your foot up towards your knee. If it is not treated, a pulmonary embolism (blood clot that has moved from its original locations and become lodged in one of your lungs) could occur.
They are both very serious conditions, so if you think you have them, make sure you get medical assistance straight away. The sooner it is treated, the more likely you are to minimise the risk of complications.