How to prevent blood clots when going on airplanes

I’m flying soon, and thought this would be a relevant article to share.

Prescriber’s Letter:

Practical Tips for Avoiding “Economy Class Syndrome”

What Is Economy Class Syndrome?

Economy class syndrome is a condition that can happen after sitting in a cramped space, such as the economy class section of an airplane. This can lead to blood clots in the legs and sometimes the arms, which is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can break free and travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and sometimes this can cause death. This can occur during or after a flight or even a few weeks after a flight. Blood clots can also happen when traveling by train or car for a long period of time, or even from sitting at a desk for a long time.

How Do I Know If I Have a Blood Clot?

Symptoms of a blood clot can be swelling in one lower leg or arm, swelling or bruising behind the knee, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or fainting.

Who Is At Risk For Economy Class Syndrome?

The risk factors for blood clots in economy class syndrome can be patient-related or cabin-related. Patient factors include smoking, dehydration, drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, obesity, age over fifty years, pregnancy, and history of blood clots and/or risk factors for blood clots. Other risk factors are recent surgery, cancer, heart failure, and women who are taking birth control pills. Cabin-related factors include sitting in a cramped space for a long time and low cabin humidity.

General Tips For Avoiding “Economy Class Syndrome”

* Drink plenty of water before and during travel to prevent dehydration.

* Do not drink alcohol and caffeine during the flight since they can cause dehydration.

* Wear loose fitting clothing and comfortable shoes when flying.

* Do not sit with your legs crossed for long periods of time.

* Walk around in the airport during layovers.

* Sleep for only thirty minutes at a time while flying.

* Try to sit in an aisle seat so that you can stretch and move more easily.

* Do not sit for a long period of time. Walk (if permitted) or do stretching exercises during the flight (e.g., ankle circles, toe and heel lifts, knee lifts). Specific exercises that can be done in your seat can be found at

What Should I Do If I’m At Risk For A Blood Clot?

If you are at high risk for blood clots, talk to your doctor about other things you can do including elastic compression stockings or medicines that can be prescribed for you to take before, during, or after flight.


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