The next time you travel, don't forget to pack your stockings - compression stockings, that is. With gentle compression on your legs and ankles, compression stockings can significantly reduce your risk of developing life-threatening blood clots while flying - or taking the bus, car or train, for that matter.
Deep vein thrombosis: a travel threat
That's because sitting for long periods of time in a cramped upright position, say in an airline seat - compresses the veins and arteries in the leg so that blood is unable to circulate freely. When circulation is compromised and there's no way to stretch or exercise, blood pools in the lower leg, raising the risk of a clot that can travel to the lungs and block the blood flow there.
Called a pulmonary embolism, that kind of blood clot in the lungs is a life-threatening emergency. It can happen to anyone - and has, affecting travelers ranging from professional athletes to young mothers and teens. The risk of developing a clot, called deep vein thrombosis, is serious enough that medical experts have issued a number of recommendations for avoiding them while traveling, including flexing the feet, staying hydrated - and wearing compression stockings.
Who needs compression stockings?
You don't have to have a circulatory or vascular condition to benefit from compression stockings. But if you do, specialized compression garments tailored to specific circumstances are designed to help prevent the accumulation of fluids, provide support and encourage blood flow. For example, post-surgical compression garments can help with drainage and healing after many kinds of surgeries, and lymphedema garments can help to reduce swelling that arises from an accumulation of lymph fluids in the limbs. And a variety of varicose vein garments can benefit circulation and keep blood from pooling in affected limbs.
Where to buy compression garments?
If you don't have a medical condition, you can get compression stockings from stores ranging from athletic and outdoor suppliers to home health outlets. For therapeutic purposes, look for compression garments that state they provide "medical grade compression." The best compression garments should fit snugly without squeezing or cutting into the skin and be comfortable enough to wear for several hours of a long trip by plane - or any other way you choose to travel.
Research has revealed that wearing compression stockings during air travel can significantly reduce your risk of potentially fatal deep vein thrombosis. For a more comfortable flight and healthier legs, don't leave home without them.