The Dangers of Long Flights

November 30, 2015
The Dangers of Long Flights

While traveling in my 20s, the last thing I think I need to worry about is some random health concern I see posted on a board. I figure the warning is just for older people–not me. I’m fine. I’m in my prime.

So, I board my long flight and kick back (but not too far back because I’m seated in economy and my seat doesn’t budge that much). I put on an in-flight movie, take off my shoes, order wine and try to enjoy myself as much as possible despite the fact that I’m in a metal pod hurling through the sky and the man in front of me is coughing like he’s dying, and the lady behind me has a baby who wont stop crying. Those are the people with genuine medical concerns–not me.

My leg still feels kind of funny, but oh well, this flight it almost over and I’ll be back to normal in no time.

So I try to sink deeper into my seat, cross my legs and turn the volume up and sip my drink. Four hours later, that baby is still crying, and I know I’m not going to get any sleep so I order another drink and browse through my movie options. I feel really thirsty as I down the last of the $6 bottle of water I purchased in the terminal. But because I read an article online about how gross airplane water is, I allow myself to become dehydrated. Luckily, the wine is good!

By now, my legs have gone slightly tingly so I switch positions and jiggle my legs slightly, hoping they’ll come back to life. We’re eight hours in and I’ve finally decided that a walk around the plane may be a good idea. But as soon as I get up, I realize that far too many people are eye balling me. So, I make a bee-line for the toilet. My leg still feels kind of funny, but oh well, this flight it almost over and I’ll be back to normal in no time.

Except that when I get off the plane, I find myself limping. Strange, but it’ll go away, I think. I’ve got to walk through two terminals to get to my next flight, and by the time I get there, I’m sure that my blood will be pumping to my foot like normal. So I hightail it to my next departure gate, fumbling to find my card as I pass another overpriced sales booth for some water, but then opt for a juice instead.

I board my next flight, still jiggling my feet as I notice one of my ankles starting to hurt and become more swollen than my other ankle. But I brush it off. “Two short flights to go,” I tell myself. I’m almost there. But when I reach my final destination, I’m limping like someone who’s missing an entire leg. The pain is fairly severe and I start to realize that maybe taking off my shoes and crossing my legs on the plane wasn’t a great idea.

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Maybe that poster was a legitimate warning, and maybe I  shouldn’t have had that wine. Deep vein thrombosis, also known as “economy class syndrome,” can affect anyone. It’s not limited to the elderly, unfit, or medically challenged. Many people don’t think about what can cause it, or what can prevent it. But getting a blood clot while traveling cannot only put a damper on your trip–it could seriously harm or even kill you!

To prevent this from happening, here are some basic rules everyone should adhere to when taking very long flights (8 hours or longer):

1. Stay hydrated.

Alcohol and coffee can dehydrate you, so drink lots of non-alcoholic liquids and water.

2. Avoid removing your shoes during flights, and don’t cross your legs.

This may be okay on shorter flights but when traveling long distances, keep your shoes on and your legs uncrossed.

3. Do leg movement/stretches or get up and walk around every once in a while.

Don’t stay seated the whole flight–even if others are eyeballing you.What’s more important: a bored stranger or your health and well-being?

Top photo credit: Unsplash.

About Julia Markham

Bermuda born freelancer, working in design and marketing.
Passions include: Travel, Gluten free living, animal rights advocacy and being a complete beach bum.

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