ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Deep vein thrombosis

(Please read the Disclaimer before using the ABC Guide to Travel Health).

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) usually in the deep veins of the legs. Circulatory stasis from prolonged sitting is the main factor in the development of DVT. In the case of air travel, it has been suggested, but not proven, that other factors, such as the seat position, lower humidity and oxygen levels, alcohol consumption and inadequate fluid intake, may increase the tendency for blood clots to form. 11-13

Risk for travellers 11-13
The increased risk associated with travel is probably very small unless additional pre-existing risk factors for DVT are present. (See your doctor.)
Precautions and prevention 11-13
For anyone travelling for prolonged periods, especially for trips longer than 6 –8 hours:

  • Wear loose non-restrictive clothing.
  • Do not sit with the legs crossed.
  • Move around in the seat and cabin as much as is practicable.
  • While seated, do calf exercises to stimulate blood flow, like flexing the ankles.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before and during the trip.
  • Avoid excessive intake of alcohol and caffeine drinks during the trip.
  • It may be helpful to wear graduated-compression stockings designed for travel, especially for those with risk factors for DVT. (See your doctor.)
  • Low-dose aspirin may be used by travellers, but only in accordance with medical advice. (See you doctor.)
  • Be watchful for symptoms of DVT, in particular pain in the calves, during and for up to a month after a long flight. See you doctor if symptoms develop.


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