Since the temperatures are rising in Texas and many are heading out of town, we thought it would be a good time to talk about air travel and the risks that can be involved.
When up in the air, blood coagulability rises while blood flow slows down. Since you’re often seated for long periods of time while flying, this is particularly prevalent in the lower legs. This process can cause clots and it does so in about 3-5% of air travelers.
A clot in the leg is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Most of the time, they are painless, but some may cause pain and swelling. DVT is often called the “Stealth Disease” because it comes on quietly and symptoms generally do not arise until several days after the flight.
It’s commonly misdiagnosed as a benign leg cramp and no treatment is sought until much later. When treatment is delayed, the injury can become aggravated and cause permanent vein damage, further issues and/or in severe cases, death, if it travels to the lungs, brain or heart.
DVT is preventable in most cases by following these few rules:
- Flex your legs by raising your heels, then the balls of your feet, and repeating a few times throughout your trip.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages while in the air.
- If you have a history of clots, talk to your doctor about taking an anticoagulant or wearing medical compression hose before traveling.
- Avoid sleeping if you can and/or crossing your legs for more than a few minutes
Download our Air Travel Tips One-Sheet.
Talk to your doctor if you feel any of these symptoms during your flight or within a few days after traveling:
- Sudden swelling in one lower leg (A little swelling in both legs is normal in flight)
- Cramping or tenderness in one lower leg
- Bruising or swelling behind knee
- Shortness of breath
- Escalated or painful breathing
- Cramp in your side
- Fainting (this is often the first sign, especially in older people)
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.