Sweating Over Economy-Class Tickets?
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Hirsh has run some epidemiological numbers of his own: "In the general population, a 20-year-old has a 1/5,000 risk per year; an 85-year-old has a 1/100 risk because of age and other illnesses; middle-aged people fall somewhere in the middle, from 1/1,000 to 1/500 per year -- if they don't fly," Hirsh tells WebMD. "Flying may increase thrombosis by 1/25."
The bottom line is that there is a "very low risk, even if you are flying," says Hirsh.
Who is at risk of DVT? Those who have family history or multiple episodes of thrombosis, as well as patients with active cancer, Hirsh tells WebMD
So why did Scurr get such high numbers? "They were looking for silent clots, and what they found were very small [ones] that were of no risk to anyone," says Hirsh. "These teeny-weeny clots are absolutely meaningless. It's even possible that if we were to look in our legs after lying in bed for eight hours we would find them."
Hirsh's bottom-line message: "In the otherwise healthy individual, the risk of clotting is very low," he tells WebMD. "It's a very uncommon event."
If you are still concerned and want to hedge your bets, Hirsh offers suggestions: Practice isometric exercises -- muscle contractions -- for five minutes every half hour, or do them for one minute every 10 minutes. "Those numbers are just pulled out of the air," he says. "The point is, contracting your muscles frequently pushes blood up towards your heart."
Also, make sure you don't get dehydrated. Drink water, not coffee or alcohol, both of which can stimulate urination. "What pilots do is drink a large glass of water per hour," Hirsh tells WebMD. "More and more airlines are providing people with bottled water. And they will replace it.
"We advise only people with previous venous thrombosis and swelling of the legs to wear [elastic stockings]. Otherwise, we really don't advise it. They're quite hot to wear, difficult to put on and take off, and they are quite expensive."