10 Tips For A Healthy Flight


Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), sometimes referred to as travelers' thrombosis, can occur anytime one sits in a cramped space for a long period, such as in a plane, train or car.
While DVT can strike on flights of any length, the risk is higher on extended flights. "There seems to be a threshold of about seven to 12 hours where people are at higher risk of this," says Martin Austin, MD, SFHM Medical Director, Inpatient Medical Group.


DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside a muscle, usually in the leg. Prolonged inactivity is the main culprit because it causes slow, sluggish blood flow, increasing the likelihood of clotting.


The clot may cause no symptoms at all, or it might cause leg pain, redness and swelling. The danger occurs if the clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, where it blocks blood flow as a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism (PE). Symptoms include sudden difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, chest pain, and blue lips or fingers. DVT and pulmonary embolism are emergencies that require immediate treatment.

If you're young and healthy, it's very unlikely you'll develop a clot, let alone a pulmonary embolism. However, DVT/PE can and does occur making this an issue travelers need to be aware of, especially those who have some of the risk factors:

  • Increasing age
  • Prolonged immobility
  • Recent surgery or trauma to the pelvis or leg
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Obesity
  • Prior DVT
Women who are pregnant or who take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy also are at risk, since these may increase the tendency of blood to clot. And about 10 percent of the population has a genetic predisposition to develop clots, Dr. Austin notes.

Here are some other tips for a healthy flight:
  1. If you have cardiopulmonary disease, ask your doctor if it’s OK for you to fly, and what precautions to take. Ask your doctor if you are at risk of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)
  2. Wear compression stockings to support circulation in your lower legs.
  3. With your doctor’s approval, take a low dose of aspirin before flying to help prevent blood clots.
  4. Enjoy a light snack and beverage before takeoff to keep up your energy. Bring chewing gum and healthy snacks like almonds or protein bars.
  5. Drink fluids, but avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
  6. Ask for an extra pillow to place behind your lower back for lumbar support. Keep your laptop case or carry-on bag under the seat in front of you and use it as a footrest.
  7. Get up at least once an hour. If you can’t walk in the aisle, do stretching exercises in your seat.
  8. Flex your ankles (as if you were pressing up and down on the accelerator) often.
  9. If a passenger near you is coughing or appears to be ill, notify a flight attendant.
  10. If you experience shortness of breath, leg pain, or chest pain upon arrival, or several days to a month or two after a long plane trip, seek medical attention immediately.
If you experience any of these symptoms, notify a flight attendant to receive medical attention.


To find a physician near you, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/physician

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