Avoid clots on long haul flights

The danger of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) for air travellers has been highlighted by the death of a 28-year-old British tourist who collapsed and died at Heathrow airport after a 20-hour flight. DVT causes potentially fatal blood clots in the leg from sitting in cramped conditions over an extended period of time.

The pressurised and dehydrating atmosphere in a plane increases the chances of developing DVT. DVT forms in the leg and can travel to the lungs causing obstruction and a lack of oxygen. This can happen during a flight or even days afterward.

The death of the young Briton shows that DVT can strike seemingly healthy people, although some people are more susceptible. You are in a high-risk category if you are:

  • a smoker
  • suffering from cancer
  • a woman taking the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy
  • overweight
  • elderly
  • immobile

However, there are ways to substantially reduce the risk of developing DVT. During a long flight:

  • get up and walk around every 30 minutes if feasible, or at least every 3-4 hours
  • wear compression stockings
  • take half an aspirin
  • drink lots of water and avoid alcohol, tea and coffee as they contribute to dehydration

If you feel any leg pain during or after a flight please seek medical attention as soon as possible.