Economy class syndrome is the formation of blood clots in veins deep within the legs (deep vein thrombosis - DVT) occurring during or just after a long haul flight, especially in economy class with limited legroom. Also called traveller’s thrombosis or venous thromboembolism. This occurs when travellers sit on an airplane in the same position for a long period of time without much movement. In this situation, pressure builds in the lower legs and blood flow is reduced, resulting in a risk of blood clots forming, which could then block thin veins.
Other risk factors that contribute to the syndrome include lower oxygen pressure, and dehydration due to low humidity and consuming alcohol. There are also more risks for people with a history of blood clots, cancer, prolonged bed rest following orthopedic surgery, recent treatment involving general anesthesia, estrogen therapy, obesity and cigarette smoking.
A study found that 18 percent of 61 sudden deaths among long-distance flyers resulted from blood clots.
Preventative measures include
- Book exit row, bulkhead, or aisle seats to get more leg room.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid knee-length stockings that constrict circulation.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which contribute to dehydration during long flights.
- Drink plenty of other fluids. 1ABOVE helps with jet lag, hydration and immunity.
- Walk up and down the aisle periodically.
- Massage feet, ankles, lower legs, and knees to move blood out of the legs and toward the heart.
- While seated, exercise calf muscles by clenching your toes.