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Economy Class Syndrome (Traveler’s Thrombosis)

Imagine sitting screwed up like the aforementioned pretzel ... for twelve hours. Welcome to long haul flights, and even some long drives. This common situation may predispose you to developing a blood clot or DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in the leg. The clot can break off and travel to the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal condition. Thankfully this is a fairly uncommon event, and when it occurs, it usually does so in people with certain underlying risk factors, such as:

  • pregnancy
  • obesity
  • cigarette smokers
  • use of estrogen (hormone replacement or the birth control pill)
  • varicose veins
  • cancer
  • previous DVT or pulmonary embolus

If you are at higher risk, and perhaps even if you aren’t, consider the following:

  • Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water, and not too much coffee or alcohol.
  • Request an aisle or bulkhead seat, or one in first class if you have the nerve!
  • Exercise while you are aloft – wiggle, stretch and get up and stroll from time to time.
  • Wear elastic compression stockings and loose fitting clothing.
  • Consider an injection of low molecular weight heparin prior to departure. Discuss this one with your doctor.
 
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