Even the fit and young are vulnerable
Now and again, I have been reminded about the need to move about on long flights. Usually, this results in my moving my toes, flexing my ankles and stretching my neck like some animated teddy bear. I also try to drink more water.
The issue is, of course Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and, whilst I try to take it seriously, I have never had it and it seems a bit unreal. That is until a colleague’s 30 year old rugby-playing son developed it.
Tim had recently come back from Barbados with his girlfriend and complained of feeling unwell for a couple of days. He said it was like he had been kicked in the side or had punctured a lung (rugby players think like that). But then his leg and foot “sort of seized up” and he knew that there was something wrong with him.
Nevertheless, it required his mother to make him go to the hospital where his blood pressure and blood oxygen levels were found to be dangerously low. His doctor said afterwards that had it not been for his overall fitness (rugby again) he would have been dead.
He had a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot in a deep-lying leg vein breaking away and blocking one of the blood vessels in his lungs. The original embolism or clot had been caused by a combination of sitting for a long period and dehydration.
His mother explained that a DVT can take a couple of weeks to develop and symptoms may not appear for a couple of weeks after that. Long-haul flights quadruple risks which can persist for weeks. So, apparently, you have to move about both on the plane and also when you get home.
The hospital put Tim on the anticoagulant heparin and he recovered pretty quickly. It seems that a big worry is that the clot will simply move along and settle somewhere else, so the medics needed to be ready for that.
Tim is pretty sanguine about the events. He is back playing rugby and is still drinking too much beer and not eating very healthily. However, even he says that it was a bit of a shocker.
Going to hospital with broken bones or a mangled ear is par for the course but a tiny blood clot that can actually kill you? That is not real – or is it?
|Comments||Post a comment|
20 May 2010, 01:02PM
This is a case of being sensible on long haul flights. I always try and drink plenty of water (even if it means several toilet breaks!), wear compression socks and take aspirin to thin the blood. Drinking alcohol while flying is obviously a bad idea.
Angie Dorton, Blackpool
20 May 2010, 02:53PM
My sister had a DVT problem and the danger is that a clot travels up the vein to the heart. It then moves on to the lungs where it gets trapped and blocks the blood through small vessels stopping them getting oxygen. One big clot or several small ones can be fatal.
Peter (Medical student), London
20 May 2010, 05:11PM
The 'deep' veins are those that run up deeply through the leg muscles and the pelvis up to the heart. Blood goes down the legs quite quickly but is much more sluggish coming back up to the heart. Not moving about for long periods on an aeroplane allows blood to clot in the veins.
Mandy Preston, Colsterdale
21 May 2010, 06:10AM
When I had an operation a year ago, the doctors told me that I could not fly for six weeks because the operation increased the risk of DVT.
Jack Legg, Bicester
21 May 2010, 08:00AM
This talk about walking around might be ok for first-class passengers but where do you walk if you are in an ordinary seat? Do you get people to move to let you out just because you want to go for a stroll up the aisle. If you want to stop this DVT then you have to make the seats better with more room.
DaveReiss, United Kingdom
21 May 2010, 09:12AM
This is a problem but I have always wondered why pilots do not suffer from it. After all, they sit down for the flight and you do not see them walking around the aircraft doing their exercises. So what why are they ok with it?
Andrew, Sidcup, Kent
21 May 2010, 12:26PM
I use a Venoflow anti DVT foot pedal exerciser gadget on long haul flights. It really helps prevent/relieve stiff and uncomfortable legs on flights, it cost me about £12.
Sally Bartlett, Scotland
22 May 2010, 08:14PM
I agree with Alex, its so irritating when you are getting up all the time climbing over everyone, especially when you are trying to get some sleep. The airlines need to rethink for us mortals who are in 'slug class'!!
Martin H, Sutton
24 May 2010, 05:35PM
In response to DavidReiss's comment, pilots have a lot more room in the cockpit than passengers have in their seats and must move around, take toilet breaks etc while the co/second pilot takes over. I expect that there have been a number of pilots who have suffered DVT.
Lance Price, Wales
25 May 2010, 10:52AM
If you are worried about DVT here are some signs and symptoms - Calf, knee, or thigh pain, swelling, and/or discoloration of the leg with no history of truama are suspicious for DVT. The more concerning thing is having shortness of breath with that. This means that the clot has traveled to the lungs and you have a pulmonary embolism. This can occasionally obstruct all blood flow into the lungs (called a "saddle embolus" because of how it looks at autopsy).
JennyLamb, United Kingdom
26 May 2010, 11:34AM
I only know of one person who had this but it happened about two months after an operation. She had asked the doctors and they said give it six weeks post-op before you fly (which I understand is pretty standard advice).
Andrew Bevan, Warminster, Wiltshire
27 May 2010, 06:31PM
I use Scholl flight socks and these really do work for me. I do not know the medical reasons but I assume there must be some because they use similar things in hospitals after operations. What I do know is that when I take the socks off before landing, I can then get my shoes on. If I do not use them, I find getting shoes back on really difficult.
27 May 2010, 06:45PM
The airlines know all about DVT but do not say much. I think they ought to make warnings about it part of the safety briefing. At the very least they should say that you are at risk if you:
Dr Jenkins, Newcastle
28 May 2010, 06:23AM
Just to explain a bit about DVT. It is a condition where a thrombus or blood clot forms within a deep vein. The most common locations are in the calf or the thigh where the clot can either partially or completely block the blood flow. In the bad cases, the blood clot breaks free from the vein wall and travels up to the lung or may block an artery. This type of pulmonary embolism can be fatal. There is also a risk to pregnant women, where the embolism can lodge in the placenta and put the fetus at risk.
name withheld, Manchester
28 May 2010, 06:47AM
I am a retired professional pilot having flown both long-haul and European routes and I can confirm that pilots do also succumb to DVT.
Greg M, London
28 May 2010, 01:45PM
I too have used Scholl flight cotton feel compression socks in the past. They are really comfortable and are meant to help prevent DVT and relieve tired legs.
KerryHolland, United Kingdom
1 June 2010, 11:14AM
Most first class and Upper class services include socks in the courtesy packs and so they are considered to be good. Whether they are a substitute for proper exercise and moving around is not obvious. I have to admit that I find this subject a bit scary. I had no idea that DVT could take so ling to show itself after the flight.
1 June 2010, 12:04PM
After reading these article/comments I will certainly take the necessary precautions when flying in the future. The same applies to work, being seated for up to 8 hours a day in the office, I have started drinking plenty of water and stand up and move around as regularly as possible.
William J, UK
8 June 2010, 02:08PM
Even on short flights, air passengers are still at risk from fatal deep vein thrombosis.
10 August 2010, 10:09AM
The Scholl Flight socks are brilliant and really easy and comfortable to wear, and they do relieve tired legs, I always use them be it on short haul or long haul flights.
12 August 2010, 10:59AM
This is all very enlightening information, I was not really aware of DVT and its consequences, especially as I have recently had surgery, no-one mentioned to me in hospital that I should be careful flying before six weeks, so this really is good to know, I think this advice needs to be more widely available.
Max Fox, Colchester
19 September 2010, 08:21PM
20 October 2010, 04:02AM
It took me a while to search online, only your site explain the fully details, bookmarked and thanks again.
rachat de credit, Germany
27 October 2010, 04:26AM
I have the same opinion with most of your points, however some need to be discussed further, I will hold a small conversation with my partners and perhaps I will ask you some suggestion shortly.
Dave, Swansea uk
24 November 2010, 07:09PM
If you are travelling for a long period, consider having Fruitflow. It is an active ingredient that is contained in the drink Sirco and is scientifically proven to help blood flow in a similar way to Aspirin, but without ANY known side effects. Look into it, simple natural drink that is proven to work and tastes good too. I drink it before any long journey.
26 November 2010, 05:22PM
I agree with Marcus, if this disease is a serious threat then surely they should inform us about in in the saftey run throught at the begining of the flight!
3 December 2010, 01:24PM
As Andrew says the foot pedal exciser works a treat, I usee it on every flight and i have never suffered from DVT.
13 April 2011, 02:42PM
Some aspects of DVT are truly scary. My doctor says that you also have to be careful about veins in the liver and places like that which can get clots particularly if you have had other treatments.
5 May 2011, 03:10PM
I'm 29 years old, active person and i had DVT one year ago.
23 February 2012, 11:17AM
I had a swollen arm in 2010,as I had a problem with my carpel tunnel I thought it was the pain causing it to swell.I had the op.to sort out the carpel,no-one at the hospital questioned why my arm was swollen.I saw my GP as a had a swelling under my arm,he diagnosed a lymphoma,and sent me for a scan.The scan showed I had a DVT in a small vein in my arm,I was admitted and treated for it. This was in October,I had previously had two long hauls the last being LA to London in June. Not sure if it was the cause,but don't be careless and think it won't happen again,as in Feb 2011 I had a PE leaving a football game,and was told am lucky to still be alive.I am now on blood thinner for life(clexane)
Peter Bevan, Codsall Staffs
6 May 2012, 08:54AM
I am a 42 year old, 6ft 3,100 mile a week male cyclist. Went to Lanzarote in Dec 2011, had diarrhoea before getting on plane and had drunk half bottle of champagne, then slept in a cramped position for 3 hours.
Johnathan Beagley, Builth Wells, Wales
11 March 2013, 01:20PM
I did a long-haul flight from the Maldives - 10.5 hours and wore flight siocks. Two weeks later I had a DVT. I am very active and a hill walker and the day before had been hauling logs and chainsawing. It started with a stiffening of the calf muscle in the afternoon but the next morning my leg was locked solid. It feels like permanant very bad cramp and is very painful, The doctor - after a scan- has put me on warfarin and a tummy injection but a week later I am still in pain and only able to hobble with a stick. It came as a shock that you can get DVT two weeks after a flight and I strongly recommend to everyone to take every precaution you can as this is miserable.
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