EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“I am flying to Spain on holiday. Do I need to take precautions to stop my blood clotting in my legs?”

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) often develops due to a combination of three factors: a) damage to the wall of the blood vessels (such as inflammation or trauma), b) a change in flow (such as immobility, local pressure, or varicose veins), and increased blood coagulability, that is an increased risk of clotting (such as with dehydration).

As you know, millions of people fly every day with no problems at all. However, DVT’s can develop on flights. They can also develop after long car, train, or coach journeys. It is sensible to take simple precautions to prevent you developing clots. It is important that you keep well hydrated. This means drinking plenty of water or fruit juice before and during your flight. Alcohol, tea, and coffee can cause dehydration and if possible, are best avoided for a few hours before and during the flight.

There are a few things that may put someone at a higher risk of having a DVT. These include having had one before, a family member having had a DVT, having a blood clotting disorder, recent pelvic or leg surgery, being pregnant or being on the oral contraceptive pill, being overweight or a smoker, and certain types of heart disease and cancer.

Simple exercises can help you and most airlines now have ‘wellbeing in the air’ sections in their in-flight magazines or on their internet page. It is worth looking at them before you fly.

Most DVT’s develop in the legs. So once the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign is off, go for short walks along the aisles. If that is difficult, every 30 minutes or so, stretch out your arms and legs and try not to cross your legs. Try and ‘tighten’ your calf muscles for 15 seconds and then relax. Try and bring your each knee up to your chest for a few seconds, and later roll your neck and shoulders gently from side to side. Do this a few times every hour.

In certain circumstances, it may be advisable to have special precautions, such as special stockings or low dose aspirin. As always, if you are concerned, have a chat with your pharmacist or doctor.

For more information about DVT/Deep Vein Thrombosis click these links: