Thrombosis is the medical condition in which blood clots form in a blood vessel and prevent normal blood flow, a potentially life-threatening situation and one of the leading causes of death in our society. Air travelers may be particularly susceptible to this condition due to tight seating on long-distance flights which limits leg room particularly for those riding in the “economy class” area of the aircraft. This limited space can actually inhibit sufficient blood flow in the legs of all passengers and flight personnel, and studies have shown that even physically fit individuals are at risk.
There are several known factors that can increase the potential for thrombosis to develop. Some individuals have an underlying predisposition for the development of blood clots, a condition known as “thrombophilia.” Elderly and overweight individuals are also at higher risk. The physical conditions of the plane itself may put any passenger at higher risk if the air is dry or recirculation is inadequate, and if one is seated in the more cramped quarters of economy class.
Air travelers should be aware of a number of methods to safeguard against “economy class syndrome.” Staying sufficiently hydrated is very important and can be best achieved by drinking plenty of water and avoiding the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Passengers should also strive to make themselves as comfortable as space allows by storing baggage in overhead compartments instead of underfoot and taking advantage of opportunities to move about the aircraft cabin. High-risk passengers may also consider consulting with their physician prior to flying and wearing special support hose that help increase circulation.
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