metropolitan news

01. April 2010

mettravel news: ‘Air travel’ and ‘veins’

Summer is almost here, and with it the fulfilment of various travel dreams.

However, this is accompanied by the risk of venous thrombosis, also known as ‘economy class syndrome’.
Although those with vein problems are especially affected, in fact everyone is at risk.

Particularly in the aeroplane, the flow of the blood stream slows due to prolonged sitting and limited freedom of movement; this can result in the congestion of blood in the legs.


On the aeroplane, the low air pressure and reduced air humidity in the cabin cause the body to lose moisture through the skin and the mucous membrane.
This leads to thickening of the blood. In the worst case, this can result in life-threatening blood clot formation in the veins – thrombosis.

The risk of venous thrombosis is considerably higher for persons who smoke, are overweight, are elderly, take oral contraception, are pregnant, have recently had an operation, have cardiac insufficiency or cancer, are wearing plaster leg casts, have problems with blood coagulation, or are otherwise predisposed.

To ensure that all passengers arrive safe and sound at their holiday destinations, we recommend:

  • Wearing travel stockings – these assist the return of blood in the veins and prevent swelling.
    We will be glad to advise you.
  • Drinking plenty of liquids – this serves to compensate for the loss of moisture.
    Drinking coffee and alcohol during the flight should be avoided, since these dehydrate the body.
  • Wearing comfortable clothing – wear comfortable shoes and do not wear constricting clothing during the flight.
  • Eating lightly – eat only light meals in the 24 hours prior to departure and during the flight. It is best to ensure regular digestion well before the trip.
  • During the flight, move your legs as often as possible (making circles and moving your feet up and down to stimulate the venous pump).
  • Stand up occasionally and walk around.
  • Do not cross your legs, and stretch them out properly now and then.

Those who are particularly at risk, e.g. those with tumours or cardiovascular disease, or who have already had thrombosis, should consult their doctors prior to departure regarding preventive measures such as wearing compression stockings and using anti-thrombosis medication for the duration of the flight.

However, studies have shown that taking acetylsalicylic acid has no effect on the frequency of occurrence of leg or pelvic vein thrombosis.

In the case of fundamental problems such as varicose veins or legs which feel heavy at night, taking vein-strengthening medications can be of assistance.

We will be glad to advise you concerning preparations for strengthening the veins, e.g. with the active substance ‘red vine leaf’.
However, this approach should be initiated at least one month prior to departure.

Eva Riedl
mettravel Category Manager