March 2010 is the seventh annual Deep-Vein Thrombosis awareness month.
DVT is sometimes referred to as “economy class syndrome” because the cramped airplane cabin often prevents people from getting the movement they need to prevent blood clots.
Of course, airplanes are not the only place where DVT can be a problem – even desk workers or people bedridden can be in danger.
The Coalition to Prevent DVT has put together a collection of videos that raise awareness of the dangers of DVT, and help people understand the basic steps they can take to prevent DVT.
The videos can be watched online, or downloaded for transfer to your portable media player.
The dangers of DVT are very real – the spokesperson of the Coalition to Prevent DVT lost her husband, NBC News correspondant David Bloom from complications of DVT while covering the war in Iraq.
So, do yourself a favor and devote a small part of your day to watching these videos and learning how to combat DVT. Your knowledge can also help others so forward the information to anyone you know that is regularly stuck in a cramped airplane seat.
First of all, I don’t do any of the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy when flying. I tend to turn into a hamster the night before a flight which means I’m busy into the wee hours of the morning nesting and packing, packing and nesting. It helps me relax.
What I do do that is offered as a staying healthy tip while flying is drink plenty of water. Jane Brody, in her article in the New York Times, also suggests the following:
- Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C and echinacea right before flying. Brody swears by this. Why not? It couldn’t hurt.
- Prepare for the trip well in advance and get plenty of rest to lessen stress. Like I said, I don’t do this, but it sounds sensible.
- Don’t drink alchol and limit caffiene intake to keep membranes designed to protect you moist.
- Wash hands often and keep them away from your mouth and nose. Also sound advice. I do this most of the time.
- Book an aisle seat in order to be able to walk around easily and avoid blood clots.
- Wear compression stockings when on long flights also prevents blood clots.
Brody developed her methods after she caught bronchitis along with several of her fellow travelers. She was with a group, so was able to track who became ill.
In the article she also highlights why knowing how to stay healthy is particularly important. Flights are becoming longer in some cases which ups the risks. Also, passengers are becoming older. Because older people have more health risks, they need to be more aware of precautions to take.
For example, people who have heart or respiratory problems need to know if they may need supplemental oxygen while flying. People who have cancer, are overweight or who have had surgery also need to check with their doctors to find out their fitness to fly.
Although I haven’t become sick from a flight that I know of, Brody’s article is a good reminder that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Still, if it’s an international flight, I most definitely will keep drinking the wine–just one glass–maybe two. If it’s free, it’s mine. I’ll also drink coffee, but not as much as normal. I love coffee, even if it’s not all that good and in a Styrofoam cup with white powder with scary ingredients instead of Half and Half that I normally use.
If you’re worried about blood clots, sit on the aisle. A recent study from Lahey Clinic Medical Center confirmed that getting bumped by the beverage cart can help keep deep-vein thrombosis away. The research team found that 75 percent of these cases occurred among non-aisle passengers, because they were not moving enough. Flights lasting between four and eight hours were worst.
It’s not just a matter of leg room. Window seats in business class led to the same results. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep yourself healthy. Put on compression stockings, and you’ll reduce the blood clot risk. If this is too cumbersome for you, try drinking plenty of water … and avoiding alcohol and caffeine (well, that might actually be harder).
Before you loosen your seatbelt and move freely throughout the cabin, just make sure the “fasten seatbelt” light is off and that you’re not blocking the meal service. Hungry, thirsty passengers can put your health at risk, too.
10 tips for smarter flying
With travel to exotic destinations peaking around summertime, The World Health Organization has expressed concern for traveler’s legs, and in particular the risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis. DVT is a potentially fatal condition characterized by blood clots, and your risk of developing it increases if your legs are immobilized for long periods of time.
However, it’s not a serious concern unless you’re:
- Over the age of 50
- Under 5’4 or over 6’4
- Using oral contraceptives
So on your next long flight, get up and walk around a bit, if possible. Or do those recommended exercises in the free in-flight magazine. As for me? I keep my limbs limber by doing yoga before the flight, funny looks from other passengers be darned.