New Guidelines To Prevent Blood Clots on Long Flights

Well, this is a relief: It’s not those incredibly crowded economy seats on airplanes that can increase your risk of getting blood clots on long flights, it’s that you can’t get up and move around because you’re stuck in those incredibly crowded economy seats.

So says new guidelines for travelers by the American College of Chest Physicians, which point out:

“Traveling in economy class does not increase your risk for developing a blood clot, even during long-distance travel; however, remaining immobile for long periods of time will. Long-distance travelers sitting in a window seat tend to have limited mobility, which increases their risk for DVT (deep vein thrombosis).”

The doctors also noted that they found no definitive evidence that dehydration and drinking alcohol during the flight increases the risk, but they warned against taking an aspirin as a preventive measure without first checking with your doctor.

If you’re already on blood thinners to prevent clots, your risk is minimal.

Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a serious condition in which a blood clot forms in one of the large veins of the leg. The danger is that the clot may move and cause a potentially fatal blockage in the lungs.

DVT is rare among travelers, but occurs more frequently among people who sit on flights longer than 8 to 10 hours, guideline co-author Mark Crowther, M.D., of McMaster University in Canada told the Wall Street Journal.

Risk factors for blood clots include: Advanced age, severe obesity, sitting by the window, a history of DVT, limited mobility, recent surgery, having a malignant cancer, pregnancy, and use of oral contraceptives.

For those at risk, properly fitted compression stockings are recommended.

The researchers found that, based on previous studies, DVT occurs in 3.6 percent of passengers on long flights, but compression stockings dropped that rate to 0.2 percent. The stockings should provide 15 to 30 mm Hg compression at the ankle and must not be too tight near the knee.

Other recommendations for those at risk for clots:

*If you can, choose an aisle seat.

*Get up and walk around frequently.

*Do calf-stretching exercises.

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Photo credit: Gadling.com