Preventing DVT’s During Air Travel

Preventing DVT’s During Air Travel

09/13/2018 Posted by Jeff Wright

For several decades, air travel has been recognized as a risk factor for developing deep venous thromboses (DVTs).

The risk is accentuated by the dehydrating effects of alcohol and caffeine. Greatest for flights over six hours in length, the risk of DVT is also increased for those with underlying risk factors such as a history of DVT, pregnancy, taking birth control pills, cancer (current or treated), a personal or family history of blood clotting abnormalities, recent major surgery, smoking, and obesity. The risk of DVT is very real – this past year at least two Cook employees have suffered DVTs that resulted in small, but symptomatic, pulmonary emboli. But the risk can be decreased by the following behaviors while traveling:

  • Get comfortable in your seat and recline as much as possible
  • Wear loose fitting clothing
  • Store your hand luggage in the overhead lockers to keep the room under the seat in front of you free
  • Bend and straighten your legs, feet and toes while seated every half-hour or so during the flight
  • Press the balls of your feet down hard against the floor or foot-rest to increase the blood flow in your legs and reduce clotting
  • Do upper body and breathing exercises to further improve circulation
  • Take occasional short walks around the cabin, while the aircraft is at cruising altitude
  • Take advantage of stopovers where it may be possible to get off the plane and walk about
  • Drink a reasonable amount of water
  • Avoid alcohol, which in excess leads to dehydration and immobility
  • Avoid taking sleeping pills, which also cause inertia

The risk can be further decreased by wearing graduated compression stockings. With that in mind, Cook is offering to make compression stockings available to all employees who are required by their jobs to take airplane flights of six hours or longer. The instructions on how to purchase these stockings can be found on the attached page. We encourage you to review them and to take advantage of this opportunity to protect your health.

Instructions for Purchasing Graduated Compression Stockings

Step 1: Does your job with Cook require you to take airplane flights > 6 hours in length?

If “Yes”, go on to Step 2.

If “No”, graduated compression stockings will not be made available through this offer, but we encourage you to consider purchasing them at your own expense.

Step 2: Do you have any of the following underlying risk factors for developing DVT?

  • Ever had a DVT or PE
  • History or symptoms of venous insufficiency
  • A family history of clotting conditions
  • An inherited tendency to clot (thrombophilia)
  • Cancer or had treatment for cancer in the past
  • Pregnant or taking birth control pills
  • Undergone major surgery in the last three months
  • Had hip or knee replacement within the last three months or
  • Ever suffered from a stroke

If “Yes”, go on to Step 3

If “No”, go directly to Step 4

Step 3: You should check with your physician before ordering stockings. They may suggest you wear stockings with a higher compression gradient (> 15-20 mm Hg). These stockings may require a prescription and personal fitting. If so, you can purchase these at a local stocking provider and have your health insurance cover the cost if it is a covered benefit. If the cost is not covered by your health insurance, then the cost should be submitted through Concur as a business expense. If your doctor does not recommend a compression higher than 15 to 20 mm Hg, go to step 4.

Step 4: If you have no history of venous disease, you should consider wearing knee-high graduated compression stockings with 15 to 20 mm Hg compression gradient while on long airplane flights. These do not require a prescription, and can typically be purchased through local pharmacies or via the internet (but be sure you are purchasing graduated compression stockings and not simply support stockings or support hose). You can use your company credit card to purchase two pairs of the stockings and submit the expense through Concur.