To avoid deep vein thrombosis on long flights, stay hydrated and stay active

January 16, 2012
Avoiding DVT

On flights of more than five hours, experts say, it’s important to drink lots of water and avoid drinks that cause dehydration, such as coffee, tea and alcohol.

Take frequent walks up and down the aisles. If you can’t walk around, stand up at your seat and do toe lifts, heel lifts and ankle circles to keep the blood flowing. Avoid wearing constricting clothing. Take cat naps instead of sleeping for long periods.

Bring aboard a collapsible stool; using one allows shorter people in economy class to elevate their knees and reduce pressure on the femoral vein under the knee. Wear compression socks to help your circulation.

Some people take baby aspirin before a long flight, but studies suggest aspirin isn’t very useful at preventing DVT, and my doctor did not recommend it.

Warning signs

Swelling in the calf area. Pain in the calf, ankle or foot that is often worse when standing or walking. The pain often starts in the calf and can feel like cramping or a charley horse.

In the affected area, the skin will feel warm to the touch.

The skin color may also change color, sometimes turning pale, red or blue.

What to do

If you suspect you have DVT, get in touch with your doctor and describe your symptoms. If you also have shortness of breath, go to an emergency room. You may have a pulmonary embolism, which can be life-threatening.

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