Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and flying: Can you fly after having a DVT? Are you at risk? How can you prevent a DVT when flying? Find out the essential information here

If you’re experiencing pain in your legs, especially when flying, don’t just brush it off as muscle ache, there’s a small chance it could be deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Here’s how to look out for potential problem.


Make sure you know how to lower the risk of suffering a DVT

What is DVT?

According to the NHS website

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg.

DVT usually occurs in a deep leg vein, a larger vein that runs through the muscles of the calf and the thigh.

It can cause pain and swelling in the leg and may lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism. This is a serious condition that occurs when a piece of blood clot breaks off into the bloodstream and blocks one of the blood vessels in the lungs.

Why is DVT linked with flying?

The main cause of DVT in long-distance travel by air, rail or car is down to prolonged, seated immobility.

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Who’s at risk of DVT?

The following conditions may increase your risk of DVT on flights of eight hours or more:

  • Cancer
  • History of DVT/pulmonary embolism
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Inherited tendency to clot
  • Recent leg/pelvic region surgery
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormone replacement therapy

What are the symptoms of DVT?

In some cases of DVT, it can present without any symptoms, but typical symptoms include:

  • A heavy ache in the affected area
  • Pain, swelling and tenderness in one leg, usually the calf
  • Warm skin in the area of the clot
  • Red skin, notably at the back of the leg below the knee

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Prepare before you travel

If you’ve got a long-haul journey coming up and think you may be at risk of DVT, then you must be prepared:

  • See your GP before you travel – don’t leave it till the last minute as you may need to buy medication or other necessities.
  • Wearing compression stockings during long-haul flights of four hours or more can greatly reduce your risk of DVT, as well as leg swelling.
  • Flight socks are available from pharmacies, airports and many retail stores – make sure you get the correct fitting, seek advice form a pharmacist or another health professional.

Below-knee stockings work against DVT by applying gentle pressure to the ankle to help blood flow. It’s crucial that they are measured and worn correctly, as a wrong fit could further increase the risk of DVT.

Reduce the risk of DVT during your journey

To reduce your risk of DVT during a long-haul flight, train or car journey, follow these tips from the NHS:

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes
  • Consider flight socks
  • Do anti-DVT exercises
  • Walk around whenever you can
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take sleeping pills

Can you fly after a DVT?

If you’ve had a DVT recently, you may be on medication to prevent the formation of blood clots – in which case the risk of suffering another DVT is low and you should be fine to travel.

However, if you are still in the recovery phrase, you must consult your GP before travel and follow the prevention advice above.

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