DVT Up in the Air

DVT Up in the AirFrequent flyers are at an increased risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

The world has never been more connected than it is now. In the blink of an eye you can virtually visit a friend that lives overseas, and in the course of a few hours can fly over miles of ocean and be on a different continent in less time than it takes to pack your bags. Airlines are equipped with cushioned seats and televisions to keep you occupied in flight, making it easy to forget how many hours you are spending in a cramped corner of an enclosed vessel.

Unfortunately, while progress in flight and distracting technology can make you forget you’re traveling, your veins are not so lucky. The required sitting for extended periods of time puts those who travel often at an increased risk for DVT.

Economy Class Syndrome or Traveler’s Thrombosis

DVT earned the nickname economy class syndrome in the 1950s, since those who are stuck in second class are often cramped in their seats while first class flyers can spread out and move around. Don’t be fooled by the nickname however; DVT affects first class flyers too, just as it affects those who prefer to stay down on the ground. It is the sedentariness of flight, not the physical act of flying that increases your risk of DVT due to inadequate blood flow. This means that you can develop the disease while lying on your couch, traveling in a car or even sitting at your desk.

Wherever you are, you can prevent your risk of DVT by taking certain precautions:

  • Getting up and moving around is crucial for proper blood flow. This is possible even on long flights. While it is tempting to find a comfortable position and not move for the entire flight, it is important that you don’t give into this desire. Set an alarm on your watch to go off every two hours and take that time to get up and walk to the bathroom, stretch in the aisle or just stand in place at your seat.
  • Wearing loose clothing on a flight is always a good idea, as you can make yourself more comfortable while you are on board. If you have to dress in business attire to meet a client when you step off the plane, then consider bringing a change of clothes in your carry-on baggage. When the plane takes off you can slip on a pair of pajama pants, and then change back before you land.
  • If you have a family or personal history of DVT, then talk with your vein specialist about compression stockings. Compression stockings are worn underneath your clothing and can reduce blood pooling in the legs. Blood thinning medications are also sometimes recommended.

As always, remember to stay hydrated while flying. If you are drinking a lot of water while on board then it will be easy to remember to get up and walk. That water has to go somewhere and the walk to the bathroom is as good an exercise as any on a long flight.


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