Keep Our Families SafeLong Air flights and Blood Clots         

It is medically known as deep vein thrombosis, though you may have heard it referred to as economy class syndrome.  Either way, it can be fatal.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in the body, typically in the legs.  Most clots dissolve, but should one break free, it can be fatal.  But even if the blood clot is not fatal, it can still be incredibly debilitating.  Some DVT victims have had to undergo open-heart surgery and take essential blood-thinning medication for the rest of their lives.

A growing body of medical studies suggest that the risk of DVT on a long airline flight is a real one.

A recent study in BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, found that the risk of getting a blood clot after taking a long flight does indeed exist, and even increased by about 12 percent if one long flight was taken a year.  Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the rate of incidents among travelers increased as the distance traveled increased.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine study, the risk of DVT increased on long flights because passengers were likely to sit still for long period of time, slowing blood flow and increasing the thickness of the blood, and that compression by the plane seats could cause blood-vessel lesions.

As better and better aircraft technology is making long-haul flights more common, 18-hour flights will not be uncommon.  In fact, some airlines are already poised to offer non-stop service between New York and Singapore. (The route crosses over the North Pole.)

But despite ample medical and anecdotal evidence, many airlines refuse to take the issue seriously.  “In our view, there are no direct relationships between air travel and deep vein thrombosis,” says David Berg, general counsel for the Air Transport Association, the airline industry’s main trade group.

And while some airlines do provide information about how to prevent DVT in their flight publications and recommend that passengers do exercises while in their seats, they still fail to provide any explicit health warnings.

But there are a few things that travelers should do to prevent DVT: stay hydrated, move around a lot, and avoid alcohol.

For more information about healthy flying and how to prevent DVT, check out the following Web site: http://www.airhealth.org.