Thrombosis – Economic Class Syndrome

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ECONOMIC CLASS SYNDROME

Despite what you could think, Economic Class Syndrome is a serious issue, which can affect any people standing still for hours during a long-haul flight. Because of immobility, the blood tends to stagnate in the legs and looses its fluidity. This situation can lead to the formation of a clot in a leg vein, this pathology being known as thrombosis. Although airline companies are fully aware of this problem and usually take prevention measures, the risk is always present.

THE RISK OF THROMBOSIS : A REALITY FOR EVERY LONG-HAUL FLIGHT PASSENGER

Immobility of the body, reduced space, dehydration, low atmospheric pressure due to altitude… The passengers of long-haul flights have to deal with all these unpleasant issues before they reach their paradise holiday destination. But these issues can be more than just annoying problems and may lead to thrombosis or, in some cases, to a fatal pulmonary embolism (if the clot migrates to an artery irrigating the lungs). People flying in economic class are more likely to be affected by thrombosis than people flying in first class, who have more space for their legs. However, all the passengers of a plane, including those sitting in first class, are at risk of thrombosis. Note that thrombosis may also occur during a long ride in a car or in a train.

THE LATEST STUDIES CONCERNING ECONOMIC CLASS SYNDROME

Numerous studies have shown that there is a relation between long-haul flights and thrombosis. These studies usually analyze both the risk of thrombosis and the factors which may increase this risk. In 2001, French scientists have studied 50 cases of pulmonary embolism, which where recorded among 135 million passengers who arrived at Roissy airport in Paris between 1993 and 2000. The results show that, although the risks of thrombosis and pulmonary embolism when flying remain low, they increase with the duration of the flight. Be aware that for a short flight, the risks are almost nonexistent. However, this French study doesn’t give any precise idea of the real risks faced by long-haul flight passengers. Other scientists have conducted more detailed analyses concerning Economic Class Syndrome. According to the team of Dr Christopher Kelman, from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (Australia), people taking a long-haul flight per year face a risk of thromboembolic accident increased by 12%. Yet, on a per individual basis, the risk remains very low : in average, 1 case of thrombosis is recorded in every 40 000 flights and 1 case of death in every 2 million. However, Italian studies have shown a slightly increased risk.

HOW TO PREVENT ECONOMIC CLASS SYNDROME ?

During a long-haul flight, it is important to take some measures to prevent thrombosis. Stay well hydrated and regularly walk along the aisle to avoid the stagnation of your blood in your legs. When seated, you can do easy exercises to avoid complete immobility, like moving your feet up and down for example. Avoid consuming alcohol and taking sedatives like sleeping pills. Wear loose-fitting clothes, which enable a better blood circulation. People at high risk of thrombosis should wear compression stockings. They can also take anti-coagulant medicines for the duration of the flight, but these drugs should only be used if prescribed by a doctor.

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