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Deep Vein Thrombosis -
Is it safe to travel?

DVT is a potentially lethal condition which involves blood clotting in the deep veins of the legs. It is associated with long distance travel of all kinds, not just air travel. One in a hundred people who develop DVT die, usually as a result of a blood clot which travels from the legs to the lungs (known as pulmonary embolus or PE.) In severe cases, PE causes the lungs to collapse and heart failure. However, DVT is not incurable. Blood thinning drugs (anticoagulants) such as warafin and herapin are used to treat DVT.

Some of us are at greater risk than others. One in five hundred over 80 year olds are affected by DVT each year, with the rate amongst the general population standing at about one in two thousand. Those at greatest risk are:

Over 40s
  • People who have had blood clots already or have a family history of blood clots
  • Those who are suffering from cancer or have had treatment for it
  • Those who have had recent surgeries, especially to the knee or hip
  • People being treated for heart failure
  • Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth
  • Women on the pill or taking HRT (hormone replacement treatment)
DVT - What to look for and how to combat it:
Common symptoms of DVT are swelling and redness, particularly
below the knee.

If you fit in to any of the categories described above (those at greater risk) you should consult your doctor before long flights.

Those in the high-risk groups can obtain elastic stockings, which are available from most chemists.

There are in-seat exercises which can be carried out. These help to keep circulation active. Information is provided on in-flight leaflets.

Whilst in the air you should:
  • Bend and straighten legs and toes every half an hour
  • Take short walks when in-flight staff tell you it is safe
  • Drink plenty of water
  • If stopping for refuelling, take the opportunity to exit the plane and walk outside
  • Avoid sleeping pills and excess alcohol

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