Aviation industry stakeholders continue to debate whether there exists a direct link between air travel and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Commonly referred to as “economy class syndrome”, DVT is a condition triggered by the formation of blood clots – often in the legs – that can break off and travel to vessels in the lungs, where they can cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE).
But even as the debate rages on, savvy passengers and DVT-susceptible individuals are taking precautions against the condition when flying long haul. One such precaution is to wear compression stockings.
While you may associate compression stockings with elderly grandmothers, flattering and fashionable options are now available to air travellers. Just ask Kelsey Minarik, whose RejuvaHealth line of compression stockings claims the distinction of being among the first to offer both therapeutic levels of medical support and designer fashion patterns.
“The number one problem that physicians have in getting patients to comply with compression therapy is that people don’t want to use [compression stockings] because they’re seen as being ugly or dated. That’s what I love about this product – it delivers something that has been around for a long time, but it’s both fashionable and functional,” says Minarik, whose own experience with a dangerous blood clot led her to launch RejuvaHealth.
At the tender age of 21, Minarik was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis up the length of her left leg. The clot was first brought to her attention during a five-hour flight from Los Angeles to New York and later traced to an adverse side effect from her use of hormonal birth-control pills.
Since 2000, media and public attention has been focused on the risk of blood clots developing in long-haul travellers, following the death from PE of a young British woman after a long-haul flight from Australia, notes the World Health Organization (WHO), which initiated a study on the matter.
Findings from Phase I of the WHO’s so- called WRIGHT study, released in 2007, indicated that the risk of developing venous thromboembolism (of which DVT and PE are the two most common manifestations) approximately doubles after travel lasting four hours or more. However, the study pointed out that, even with this increased risk, the absolute risk of developing the condition if seated and immobile for more than four hours remains relatively low at about one in 6,000.
The odds of developing DVT are low, but there’s no harm in taking precautions. In addition to wearing compression stockings, airline passengers can follow some simple tips for staying healthy in flight, notes Minarik. “Staying hydrated while flying is very important. Also, there are little exercises you can do, pointing and flexing your foot so that you get that calf muscle pumping or even rolling your ankles. Anything to keep your legs moving so that you’re not completely immobile for an extended period of time. Even if you can take your bag and prop up your legs a little, it can help that venous system to not pump so hard to get the blood up.”