Risk of thrombosis when flying

Prevention travel thrombosis

One of the greatest risks that can arise during air travel is thrombosis. But what exactly does this mean?

Thromboses are vascular diseases in which a blood clot (also known as a thrombus) forms in a blood vessel. These blood clots can form in all vessels. The legs are particularly at risk when sitting for long periods of time - and when there is little room to move because of limited leg room. This results in an increased risk of leg vein thrombosis. According to www.reisemed.at, travel thrombosis is responsible for 18% of sudden deaths on long-haul flights. So it pays to know a little about it.

Risiko Thrombose

Travel thrombosis: What are the consequences?

At first glance, the formation of a blood clot may not sound particularly dangerous. But that is a big mistake. Even a small thrombus can bring life-threatening effects or permanent damage to health (especially if the thrombus detaches from the vein and clogs vessels). Diseases that can be brought about by thrombosis are:

  • Strokes
  • Pulmonary embolisms
  • Heart attacks
  • Leg vein occlusions
  • Posttrombotic syndromes (PTS) - this is permanent damage to a vein.
  • Venous inflammation

Which passengers are considered most at risk?

In principle, after long-haul flights (from approx. eight hours) - according to a WHO study - approx. 2 to 5 out of 10,000 passengers are affected by travel thrombosis. However, there are special risk groups who would be well advised to avoid long-haul flights or to take certain preventive measures to protect themselves.

Risk groups include:

  • Overweight people
  • Passengers with plaster cast
  • Travelers who suffer from hereditary increased blood clotting tendency
  • Women who use hormonal contraception
  • Anyone who has ever suffered from venous thrombosis
  • Smoker
  • People who suffer severely from varicose veins
  • Travelers who have had surgery with increased risk of thrombosis in the past six weeks
  • Pregnant
  • Older people
  • People suffering from a tumor disease

Prevent thromboses

If you belong to a special risk group, it makes sense to consult your family doctor about appropriate preventive measures before taking a long-haul flight.

In addition to medicinal precautions such as administering an injection of low-molecular-weight heparin and various other anticoagulants, there are also very simple tips and tricks that you should follow as a preventive measure.

Tips and tricks

  • Exercise: a mid-stride walk, regularly loosening your knees and hips, bobbing your toes, exercises like the vein pump ...
  • Medical thrombosis prophylaxis stockings are recommended if movement is not possible or only possible with difficulty for physical reasons.
  • Sufficient intake of fluids is also important. However, you should refrain from drinking too much coffee or alcoholic beverages and rather stick to mineral water or sparkling fruit juices. This is to prevent the body from drying out and consequently thickening the blood.
  • Wear comfortable clothing on the plane and do not wear anything that can restrict blood flow by constricting it.
  • Avoid crossing your legs. Your legs are already bent beyond a healthy level in the tight seating area and this restricts blood flow.
  • Avoid taking sleeping pills or tranquilizers, even if you have a fear of flying.

How do you recognize travel thrombosis?

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to recognize thromboses. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, special caution is called for:

  • Discoloration of the skin
  • A leg that feels heavy or tense
  • Warm skin over the blood clot
  • Swellings
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sudden onset of pain on one side (e.g., calf pain)

What should you do if symptoms of travel thrombosis are apparent?

If you experience one or more of the above symptoms, the first thing to do is to remain calm. As long as a thrombus does not detach, there is no immediate danger to life. However, you should still act immediately:

  • Contact a doctor (if you are still on the plane, contact the flight attendants, because often there is also a doctor on board and the crew is informed about it)
  • Elevate the affected leg
  • Refrain from unnecessary movements
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