What is deep vein thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but also can occur with no symptoms.
Who's at risk of DVT?
Conditions that may increase your risk of DVT on flights of eight hours or more:
- 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 6 weeks 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.
- History of DVT or pulmonary embolism.
- Heart disease.
What are the symptoms of DVT?
About half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all. The
following are the most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the
affected part of the body (usually the leg or arm):
1. Swelling of your leg or arm
2. Pain or tenderness that you can’t explain
3. Skin that is warm to the touch
4. Redness of the skin
Before you travel
If you think you have a risk of DVT, see your GP before you travel.Don't leave it until the last minute in case you need to buy medication, compression stockings or anything else for your flight. Wearing compression stockings during flights of four hours or more can significantly reduce your risk of DVT, as well as leg swelling (oedema). The below-knee stockings apply gentle pressure to the ankle to help blood flow. It's vital that compression stockings are measured and worn correctly. Ill-fitting stockings could further increase the risk of DVT. Flight socks are available from pharmacies, airports and many retail outlets. Take advice on size and proper fitting from a pharmacist or another health professional.
During your journey
Tips to reduce your risk of DVT during a long-distance flight, train or car journey:
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes.
- Consider flight socks.
- Do anti-DVT exercises.
- Walk around whenever you can.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don't drink alcohol or take sleeping pills.
Recovering from DVT
If you had DVT recently, you're probably on medication, such as warfarin, to prevent the formation of blood clots.If that's the case, then your risk of developing DVT is low and there is no reason why you can't travel, including long haul. However, if you're still in the recovery phase, you should get the all-clear from your consultant before travelling. You should also follow the general DVT prevention advice above.