Travel Magazine

Avoid DVT the Easy Way

By Aswesawit @aswesawit

Traveling can be a lot of fun … but getting there can be a serious drag. Long flights can put a lot of stress on the body, and if we didn’t know that before we sure discovered it on our way to Indonesia when Dan developed a blood clot in his leg. It’s so common that it has its own name: Deep Vein Thrombosis. DVT is uncomfortable, but worse, it can be life threatening.

If a blood clot makes its way to the brain, it can lead to stroke or death.  Fortunately, it’s highly unlikely if you follow the experts’ advice.

i g4g38FC M Avoid DVT the Easy Way

If your seat has a footrest, use it!

Experts’ tips to avoid DVT

  • Take aspirin. It’s a blood thinner. Thick blood is far more prone to clots. Check with your doctor first (I’m not one), but one recommended protocol is one aspirin the day before, one during the flight, and one a day for the next three days.
  • Wear compression tights or stockings.  They keep blood from pooling in your legs.  Be sure they fit properly, and don’t stop right below your knees (ouch).
  • Sit properly (meaning, try to keep your thighs clear of the seat edge). If your seat has a foot- or leg rest, use it. If not, hand luggage makes a good substitute. Just pull it out from underneath the seat in front of you, and place it on the floor directly under your knees. Voilá, instant ottoman!
  • Stimulate blood flow. Remove your shoes and massage your feet frequently. Roll them on a foot roller. Use your thumb to stimulate the outside top of your foot, a reflexology area (works on hands, too). Rotate your ankles as often as you remember.
  • Drink water. A lot.  Airplane air is dry, and you don’t want to risk becoming dehydrated.  Unlike caffeine and alcohol, drinking water actually makes your blood less sticky, which lowers the risk of a blood clot. An added bonus: It’s good for your skin and helps digestion.
  • Exercise. Request an aisle seat so you can get up whenever you want. (Dan and I sit across the aisle from each other.) Move about the cabin as much as possible. Take frequent bathroom breaks (thanks to all that water!) and do the warmup stretches that runners do while waiting your turn.

But wait … there’s more you can do!

When we decided to move back to the Western Hemisphere from Asia, we had to figure out how to do it without risking Dan getting DVT again. It had taken us about 33 hours to get to Bali from Washington, DC, and another trip like that was out of the question.

And then there’s that pesky jet lag, which causes really unpleasant, flu-like side effects: brain fog, fatigue, problems with digestion, muscle soreness, and more. As I’ve mentioned before, there are ways to avoid most jet lag symptoms, but the biggest thing to remember is: The longer your flight, the worse it can be.

We came up with a brilliant solution to both problems: break the trip into segments.

How we managed our second long-haul trip

Basically, there are two ways to avoid long-haul, nonstop flights: stopovers and layovers.

  • Stopovers are the easiest and cheapest way to fit in an extra destination. You can stop in a city for a few days on the way, get some rest in a real bed, and do a bit of sightseeing or visit a friend before flying on.
  • Layovers, on the other hand, are better if you don’t have a lot of time or just want to get the trip over with. A layover for a few hours gives you the opportunity to walk around and get your blood pumping before you continue your trip.

Having flown over the Pacific to get to Bali, we chose to continue west so we’d have flown around the world!

Segment 1: Stopover in Singapore

Since Bali is literally halfway around the world from our final destination, it was unavoidable: It would take almost a full day in flight time to get there. We chose to start our trip with a weekend in Singapore.  That shaved 2 hours off.

Segment 2: Layover in Dubai

To get to London from Singapore it will take about 14 hours. The most sensible thing would be to find a route with two legs, each roughly seven hours long. We took a look at the map and found an economical flight on Emirates, whose hub is in Dubai.

Our goal was to get to Panama within a week, and most of that time was going to be in London. We had to settle for a layover in Dubai, changing planes and walking around the airport there. It would still help, and anyway, after sitting for 7 hours, who wouldn’t want a little exercise?

Plus, we would set foot in the United Arab Republic. First time in U.A.E. … That was a bonus.

Segment 3: Stopover in London

A few days in London visiting museums and pubs, and we were rested and ready to fly to our final destination.

Segment 4: Layover in Madrid

It’s a 2½-hour flight from London to Spain. We spent our 4-hour layover walking around Madrid’s Barajas Airport before heading to our new home in Panama.

Other benefits of taking a slower route

Besides health, there are a couple of other reasons you might want to consider breaking up your flight.  First of all, there’s the price: Nonstops are often the most expensive option.  Secondly, you’ll get more frequent flyer miles if you take a series of shorter flights to your destination than if you fly directly there nonstop.

Some say that knowledge is power.  Do you feel more powerful now?

How do you handle long journeys? Let us know below.

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