Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Warning All Long Distance Flyers Should Heed


We have learned what killed Tim and it should underline a warning for all of us who would take a long distance flight.  He developed a clot in his calf flying back from Uganda and a few days later it made its way to his lungs.  It is called Deep Vein Thrombosis.  That is what killed him.

I copy this information from the American Society of Hematology:

Clots & Travel

Blood clots can sometimes form in your legs during air travel because you are immobile for long periods of time, often sitting in cramped spaces with little leg room. While commonly referred to as “economy class syndrome,” the clinical term for this type of blood clot is deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). The longer the flight, the more at risk you are for developing a clot. Flights lasting 8-10 hours or longer pose the greatest risk.

In many cases, the blood clot will dissolve and go away on its own. However, in more serious cases, a blood clot formed in the deep veins of your leg may detach and travel to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).

DVT and PE, collectively known as venous thromboembolism, are highly preventable (see prevention tips below). The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a Call to Action on DVT and PE to raise public awareness of these blood conditions and increase research on the causes, prevention, and treatment.

There are several symptoms that can be warning signs of blood clots, including the following:

  • Swelling of the leg, ankle, or calf
  • Redness or discoloration
  • Increased warmth over the skin

Am I At Risk?

Your risk of developing a blood clot during air travel is increased by the following:

  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Recent surgery
  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • History of previous blood clots
  • Genetic predisposition to blood clots

How Can I Prevent Blood Clots When I Travel?

There are some simple steps you can take to avoid developing a blood clot while flying. Make sure to stretch your legs and get some exercise. You can do this by walking around the plane every few hours and changing positions in your seat. Also, drink lots of fluids and wear loose-fitting clothes that do not restrict blood flow and make it easier to move around.

Other tips include:

  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages the night before traveling and during travel
  • Store your carry-on baggage in a place that will allow enough leg room
  • Try not to cross your legs
  • Wear compression stockings

If you plan on traveling soon and have concerns about getting a blood clot, talk with your doctor about your risks and prevention. Depending on your physical condition, genetics, and medical history, you may want to see a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood conditions.


  1. Good reminder, Fossie.

    Mammy had DVT when I was young, she had been nowhere near an aircraft. Back in those dark far off days, she was walked continuously for 48 hours so that she would not end up with a 'thick' leg.

    On board a plane, you should keep fluids (non alcoholic)going, rotate your ankles and lift your legs regularly, to keep the circulation going.

    1. @Grannymar

      It is a good idea when working at a desk or taking a long car trip, too. Anything where you might be sitting in one position for an extended stretch.

  2. Wow, this is good to know! Living where I live does put me in this situation. I often get "restless leg syndrome" when flying long distances.

    1. @Delirious

      I get restless leg syndrome then and at night, too. I don't know whether this makes us more likely to have difficulty or whether the movement takes care of the risk. That would be interesting to know. In any case, we, along with everyone else, should follow these precautions listed above.

  3. Thanks TOF. Great knowledge to have now that I have started traveling again.

    Incidentally, some of my friends very affectionately call me a clot! (

    1. @Rummuser

      I had thought of you and your rekindled traveling. You and I are not as young as when we traveled in relative youth and we need to travel with knowledge to make the best of it.

      Now I need to look up your clot designation!

  4. Driving long distances without a break can also cause clots. This is how my husband developed DVT.

    He suffered greatly, we made many trips to the ER. DVT nearly took his legs and his life. The last time he developed clots, they were floating in his stomach.

    His legs were so swollen, the surgeon had to go through his neck to insert a heart filter. It was there until he passed away last year, David was also put on blood thinners.

    Although, it was lung cancer that took his life last year.

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

    Many Blessings ~ Maxi

    1. @Maxi

      I'm glad you added this. It is indeed not just flying. In the face of these kinds of suffering and personal tragedies, maybe part of the healing is in preventing the next ones passing this way on their journeys from making the same dangerous mistakes of which we have become aware.


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