Roughly one in 1,000 people will develop a blood clot, according to the CDC. As a result, we are always told to exercise and move about on planes to avoid getting one, but what if you do all the ridiculous looking exercises and you still get a clot. Or what if your neighbor or a loved one does? How would you know?
According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, an average of 274 people die from blood clots every day around the world and 600,000 nonfatal blood clots occur every year.
Air travel can massively increase your risk because you are sitting for such a long time in a confined space. This makes you more likely to suffer from a blood clot called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
When blood pools in your veins, due to lack of movement, like on a long plane journey, deep vein thrombosis is more likely to happen. A serious health problem can occur when part of the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs causing a blockage. This is called a pulmonary embolism, and it may be fatal.
Am I At Risk?
According to the CDC.gov, your risks increase if you fall into any of the following groups:
- Older age (risk increases after age 40)
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] greater than 30kg/m2)
- Recent surgery or injury (within 3 months)
- Use of estrogen-containing contraceptives (for example, birth control pills, rings, patches)
- Hormone replacement therapy (medical treatment in which hormones are given to reduce the effects of menopause)
- Pregnancy and the postpartum period (up to 3 months after childbirth)
- Previous blood clot or a family history of blood clots
- Active cancer or recent cancer treatment
- Limited mobility (for example, a leg cast)
- Catheter placed in a large vein
- Varicose veins
But don’t be complacent, anyone can get a blood clot, so it is worth trying to prevent them.
The warning signs
Watch out for pain, tenderness, swelling, warmth and/or redness in your legs during a flight. If you have more than one or many of those symptoms, it becomes more likely that you’re experiencing a clot.
The rapid onset of shortness of breath may be a sign that a clot has formed in, or has traveled to your lungs. A faster than normal or irregular heartbeat is also a bad sign along with chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing.
Avoid A Blood Clot
Drink lots of non-caffeine fluids and avoid alcohol. Move around every two hours and exercise in your seat more often.
In your seat, you can extend your legs straight out and flex your ankles (pulling your toes toward you). Some airlines suggest pulling each knee up toward the chest and holding it there with your hands on your lower leg for 15 seconds and then repeat up to 10 times. These types of activities help to improve the flow of blood in your legs and reduce your risk substantially.
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