March is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) awareness month and we thought it a good time to discuss the dangers. Air travelers who are in a situation of prolonged immobility are particularly at risk, which is why it’s also known as ‘Economy Class Syndrome’ although first class passengers have just as much risk.
DVT occurs when an abnormal blood clot forms in a large vein – typically in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also occur in the arms. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that between 60,000 and 100,000 Americans die each year from DVT (source: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/data.html).
Some unfortunate recent deaths are making the public more aware of the dangers of DVT, including:
DVT can cause a life-threatening complication called pulmonary embolism (PE) where part or all of the clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream and into the lungs where it can cause:
Because of the isolated and general pain, DVT is sometimes dismissed as a pulled muscle which can delay diagnosis, but it often causes the following symptoms, which can be early indicators of the danger:
Unfortunately, some people with DVT have no symptoms at all.
The primary key to prevention is movement, but in general preventative steps include some well-known suspects:
But exercising – even when you are in a situation of forced immobility – is still the best prevention.
When you are traveling in a plane, train, car, or other travel conveyance, this means:
Luckily, because more people are becoming aware of the risks of DVT and so your wriggling and jumping about should irritate them less. Try not to bump or jostle your neighbor too much – economy class is really tight. With a little effort, you may even be able to entice them to join you. Can you imagine an entire plane of people doing the wave?
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.