Deep vein thrombosis (or DVT) is a condition where an abnormal blood clot develops in a deep vein, usually in the leg or pelvis, and can be caused by sitting in cramped conditions on long flights.
It’s said to affect 60,000 people in the UK and can be potentially deadly if the clot dislodges and travels to your lungs.
Here, we speak to Professor Mark Whiteley, leading venous surgeon, and founder of The Whiteley Clinic, about how you can reduce your risk of developing DVT on long-haul flights this summer…
Keep as active as possible on the flight
“It’s important to keep as active as possible during the flight, particularly if it is a long flight (over four hours),” shares Dr Whiteley to HuffPost UK.
You don’t need to be doing downward dog in the aisles. A walk to the loo and back and a quick stretch every half an hour to an hour can be great, he says. “A good way to do this is by doing some simple stretching exercises and going for a walk up and down the cabin aisle at least once per hour.”
Wear compression socks
You know those ugly flight socks you see in the WH Smith in the airport terminal? Sadly, they’re actually essential for health flying, especially if you’re at a higher risk of DVT.
“Compression socks speed up the flow of blood in the veins reducing the risk of the blood clotting,” explains Dr Whiteley. “Below-knee graduated pressure stockings can also make the legs feel much better – and can be worn instead of socks.”
Research actually backs this up – one study showed that passengers wearing compression socks develop less DVT and show that leg swelling is also reduced compared to those who don’t wear the socks.
Experts say that cabin air is almost completely devoid of any moisture, so as well as the benefits to our skin and bodies, staying hydrated can be incredibly important for making our blood ‘thicker and sticky’ says Dr Whiteley.
“Blood flows at a slower rate in veins than in arteries. Therefore, being dehydrated can increase the chances of developing a blood clot in the veins,” he explains.
So, next time the drinks trolley comes along, grab yourself some juice and water to quench your thirst on the flight. And try to avoid coffee, alcohol and tea, which can dehydrate you further.