Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blood Clots & Flying: New Guidelines Issued

Blood normally flows through the legs by muscle contraction via movement
of the legs. During long periods of immobility, blood clots deep within
the veins of the legs causing swelling, stiffness and discomfort. The veins dilate
and blood pools and the pooling is that potential danger.
The American College of Chest Physicians have updated their guidelines for developing blood clots while flying. The organization's most controversial finding refutes that only people flying economy class have a greater chance of experiencing the potentially deadly condition.

In a USA Today report, Kate Hanni of says that's a bit disingenuous. It's simply easier to get up and move around in business and first class. She was on a flight where seats were so close together that she could not cross her legs because the person in front of her had reclined the chair. She said she was completely immobilized.

Dr. John Torres, health reporter for 9News Colorado, adds that flyers who have window seats tend to to develop blood clots because they are embarrassed to ask people next to them to move and therefore don't get out of their seat as much.

The common advice is to stay hydrated, get up an move around the cabin and do leg exercises at one's seat. It is when passengers sit without moving for long periods of time that can cause blood to clot in legs, also knows as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

The 2012 guidelines cover multiple potential causes for blood clots. The section regarding air travel indicates those at high risk are:

  • Persons who had recent surgery or a broken bone
  • People with active cancer.
  • Pregnant women or women on birth control pills
  • The elderly
  • Those with limited mobility
  • Those who have previously had blood clots
  • The very tall who crammed into a seat where they can't move much
  • The very short who have to sit in an odd position because the seat is too long and legs can't easily flex
  • Obesity (but it is argued that if this is cause or the obesity tends to make people less mobile)

High risk passengers should talk to their doctor and see if blood thinners are recommended to use before flying.

Symptoms for blood clots in the leg:

  • If one leg, but not the other, becomes sore and swollen
  • If one but not the other feels heavy and may be red
  • Getting very short breath and chest pains that last for more than 15 minutes

Click HERE to view the full article on


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