World Thrombosis Day: Why air travellers face greater risk, especially with alcohol — Expert

The wing of an airplane used to illustrate story
The wing of an airplane used to illustrate story

Air travellers face increased risk of thrombosis and should pay more attention to condition that involves poor blood flow and clotting, a haematologist has said.

Sulaiman Akanmu, a professor of Haematology and Blood Transfusion at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said knowing the risks would guard against the disease, a deadly condition caused by the formation of potentially deadly blood clots (blood that has turned into solid form) within the blood vessels.

Mr Akanmu gave the advice at a media briefing organised by Sanofi, a multinational pharmaceutical company, to mark the 2019 World Thrombosis Day on Sunday.

World Thrombosis Day is marked annually on October 13 and it focuses attention on the often overlooked and misunderstood condition of thrombosis, an urgent and growing health problem.

Some people known to have passed on from thrombosis include actor James Stewart, Rapper Heavy D and Nigerian Star, Goldie Harvey, who died after returning from the 55th Grammy Awards in 2013.

Mr Akanmu said “when the blood clot forms in the vein, it is referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

“Part or whole of the clot can detach and travel in the circulation to lodge in the lungs, causing a condition referred to as pulmonary embolism (PE). Both DVT and PE are collectively referred to as “Venous Thromboembolism” (VTE).

“Travellers, particularly air travelers, are more particularly associated with Venous Thromboembolism.

“This occurs especially in individuals who already have inherited or genetic predisposition of thrombosis.’’

According to him, the environment in the economy class makes this happen, especially the environment up in the sky.

“Generally in the sky, the pressure there is completely different from the one on surface and this makes us, while in the sky, to lose more fluids.

“People become more dehydrated, which is what we call Low Blood Viscosity, which means resistance to flow, the flow of blood becomes more sluggish and the sluggishness predisposes to thrombosis,” he said.

The haematologist said that passengers in the Economy class of an aircraft were usually clamped and they don’t do “air exercise’’.

He advised air travellers to take water intermittently while on air and take less alcohol.

“The location where the thrombus occurs is at the back of the knee and that is where we have popliteal vein.

“Nearly 90 to 95 per cent of air travellers in economy class would have thrombosis at the knee because it is constricted.

“This, however, does not affect passengers in first class and business class because there is space and room for walking exercise,’’ he said.

For long distance land travellers, Mr Akanmu said, it is also advisable to stop at every two or three hour interval to help reduce the risk of thrombosis, especially for those with history of inherited predisposition. (NAN)

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