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Take adequate health precautions on long-haul flights.

Summary: Slowing down of blood circulation on long haul flights can result in blood clots in lower extremities in the elderly

Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary, Senior Reporter

Dubai: While long-haul, non-stop flights are the most direct way to reach your destination, such long hours also call for some basic health precautions.

Among the many health concerns of being suspended in a pressurised cabin in air at an average of 35,0000 feet for many hours are musculo-skeletal stiffness, joint pain in arthritic patients and lumbo-sacral pain in those suffering from spinal-cord problems, said medical experts.

The main cause of concern, however, is DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is formation of a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the body [due to lack of circulation].

Dr Ramesh Kaushal Tripathi, head of vascular surgery at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News: "DVT is more likely to happen to those with a predisposition to it owing to health conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, varicose veins, malignancy, some acquired blood-clotting issues or those on blood-clotting medications. It is more common in people above 60 years of age who have weakened calf muscles and sitting in an aircraft with blood collecting in the lower extremity and poor supply of blood above the hip can trigger DVT."

Tripathi explained how DVT especially affects people older than 60 years. "As we age, our muscles naturally atrophy a little, and lack of movement in our calf muscles slows down blood circulation towards the heart. Blood pools in the legs and the vital veins get occluded (obstructed)."

Symptoms to watch out for

1. Tightness in the calf muscles.

2. Swelling in the ankles.

3. Dehydration.

4. Pain and tenderness that gets worse.

Tips to avoid DVT

1. Every two hours, keep your feet flat on the floor, lift your heel and contract and expand your calf muscles to encourage more blood flow.

2. When you get a chance to move around, stand on your tip toes and try to walk a few steps. Repeat at least 50 tip toes movements in the toilet for better circulation. Stretch your limbs while walking in the aisle whenever possible.

4. For those over 60, it is advisable to wear stockings that improve blood circulation in the extremeties.

5. Keep yourself hydrated at all times.

6. A clot may form during the flight can continue to move in your body upto 72 hours of deplaning and it is advised that travellers go in for proper stretching, exercise, hydration and rest after they deplane. In case they are predisposed to DVT, they need to see a GP after deplaning who can conduct an ultrasound to detect any clot and advise on the best line of defence.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 3, 2016
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