Air travel increases risk of clots

If you are a frequent traveller you should be aware of the risks of developing DVTs (deep vein thromboses), also known as a blood clot in the leg, as a result of air travel. The chance of developing DVTs is increased by air travel and usually appears in the calves. DVTs can be dissolved by the body’s natural processes or, more dangerously, travel to the lungs causing an obstruction eventuating in pain and oxygen deprivation. In some cases this can prove fatal and can happen during a flight or a few days after. Nicholas Zwar, senior lecturer in general practice at the University of NSW, warns that immobility, dehydration, age and obesity increase the risk of DVTs. Dr Zwar suggests getting up and walking around the plane ideally every 30 minutes, or at least every 3-4 hours. Also, to avoid the effects of dehydration, diuretics such as alcohol, tea and coffee should be substituted with water. Other risk groups include smokers, people with a history of clots, the overweight, people who have cancer and women taking contraceptive pills or hormone replacement. Dr Zwar suggests that any leg discomfort after a flight should be investigated.

‘Plane truth is clots travel too’, The Australian Financial Revew, 19/10/00, p 46.