Economy Class Syndrome: A Real Threat?
Are you planning a long flight as part of your summer vacation
plans? Have you heard of "Economy Class Syndrome" and wondered what it is and
whether it can affect you? And is flying First Class the only solution?
"Economy Class Syndrome" is the name given to explain recent high profile deaths
in economy class travelers on lengthy airplane flights. In reality, these patients
actually died from something called pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening condition
in which a blood clot travels from a vein in the calf muscle into the lung causing
the lungs to collapse. These blood clots are called DVT's, or deep vein thromboses-and
they can occur as a result of many risk factors. Cramped airline cabins restrict
leg movement that keeps blood free flowing and clot free, but there are preventive
steps that can be taken. Walking around is one of them; moving your legs and
doing exercises while seated is another good idea. And when traveling on any
long trip, be sure to avoid restrictive garments like knee highs or tight shoes.
While DVT's generally affect people over 60, pregnant women, obese or sedentary
people, diabetics, people who have already had blood clots, and smokers are
also at greatly increased risk. Certain medications such as estrogen (including
birth control pills) or raloxifene, can also increase the risk of DVT in women.
In the US, DVT affects about 1 in 500 people and accounts for nearly 800,000
hospitalizations per year. Nearly one in 4 people with DVT develop pulmonary
emboli which is a leading cause of death. British authorities have reported
at least one DVT-related death per month at Heathrow Airport alone.
The symptoms of DVT are one-sided calf pain, swelling and discomfort that worsens
over time. The pain can also be behind the knee and increases with standing
or walking. If you have risk factors for DVT and must take a lengthy trip,
try to walk for at least 5 to 10 minutes every hour. You can also ask your
doctor if you should wear compression stockings to assist your circulation.
For more information, click here.
Created: 8/8/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 6/30/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.