Dangers of DVT: Why you should avoid the window seat on the plane (even in First Class)
You may get a panoramic view, but sitting in the window seat on planes could increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis.
It is one of the potential hazards highlighted in new guidance for long-distance travellers – along with being pregnant, elderly and taking the contraceptive pill.
Published by the American College of Chest Physicians, they suggest a person’s risk of developing the condition should be taken into account when it comes to choosing a plane seat.
Window seat Don't let it discourage you from moving around the plane, say scientists
Sitting by the window discourages passengers from walking around and stretching their calf muscles, compared with the aisle.
But the experts found no evidence that DVT is brought on by ‘economy class syndrome’ as the risk is just the same in business and first class.
And in a piece of good news for those who enjoy a tipple on a long-haul flight, neither was dehydration or drinking alcohol.
DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a deep leg vein, which runs through the muscles of the calf or thigh.
It affects around 25,000 people a year in the UK but in serious cases it can lead to a potentially fatal blockage in the lung, known as a pulmonary embolism.
New evidence-based guidelines were published by the college today in the February issue of the journal Chest.
They noted that DVT brought on by long-haul travel was ‘rare’ but the risk was increased by taking flights longer than eight or 10 hours, and having other risk factors such as inactivity, obesity and smoking.
People are also at increased risk if they have certain medical conditions including recent surgery, a family history of blood clots, heart problems and broken bones.
One of the recommendation’s authors, Dr Mark Crowther, of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, said: ‘Travelling in economy class does not increase your risk for developing a blood clot, even during long-distance travel.
‘However, remaining immobile for long periods of time will. Long-distance travellers sitting in a window seat tend to have limited mobility, which increases their risk for DVT. This risk increases as other factors are present.’
The doctors recommend to travellers on flights longer than six hours to walk around frequently, stretch their calf muscles and sit in an aisle seat if possible.
DO'S AND DONT'S WHILE TRAVELLING
DO Sit near the aisle
DO Walk around and stretch your calf muscles
DO Wear flight socks if you are high-risk
DO Have an aspirin if you are high-risk
DO Have a guilt-free glass of wine
DON’T Sit by the window and not move
DON’T take anticoagulants if you are not at
People at an increased risk are advised to wear knee-high compression socks often sold at airports, but not those at low risk.
The guidelines also suggest high-risk individuals take aspirin, while some are prescribed blood-thinning drugs.
The panel’s chair Dr Gordon Guyatt said: 'There has been a significant push in health care to administer DVT prevention for every patient, regardless of risk.
'As a result, many patients are receiving unnecessary therapies that provide little benefit and could have adverse effects.'
A major study in 2007 found long haul flights tripled a person’s risk of DVT especially in women and those who were taller than six feet, shorter than 5'4″ or overweight.
Scientists from Leiden University in the Netherlands, part-funded by the UK government and the EU looked at 8,700 business travellers.
However they found the risk of getting it was still just one in every 4,656 long-haul flights and did not justify anticoagulant drugs for all long-haul travellers.