Flight socks – essential for frequent fliers

There’s great emphasis on travellers’ safety around the world, but air passengers are rarely told how to prepare for a flight in order to prevent blood clots. Sitting still for a long period of time can pose a threat of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition. On a flight, this risk is increased by a position where the edge of the seat may restrict blood circulation.
In my twenties, I hardly gave this issue a thought, but with age the feeling of heaviness and fatigue in my legs after long flights has increased. Air travel has also become more hectic. Last year people around the world made more than 2.4 billion flights, and it’s impossible to predict how unexpected weather conditions will delay flight schedules, for instance.
Most important is to prepare carefully for a flight. I suffered a massive blood clot due to long inactivity on a flight to Miami. Since then, I have advised anyone heading on a long-haul flight to pick up a pair of good flight socks.

How they work

These socks improve the circulation, reduce swelling of the ankles and fatigue. There are a large variety of them available, from made-to-order medical support socks to stylish ones in a variety of colours.
Flight socks help channel the blood from surface veins into deeper veins, where the increased flow of blood activates muscular pumping. The constricting effect of the socks stimulates circulation in the legs, limits the possibility of reflux, coagulation and blood clots when sitting for a long time.
Other ways to ward off health problems while flying include stretching and walking around the cabin, drinking enough water and a light, vegetable-based diet.
If possible, walk up and down the aisles once every hour or two. Particularly on long flights, frequently change your position and stretch in your seat, especially your legs. If you have an empty seat next to you, lift your legs up. Avoid sleeping pills and napping in a curled-up position.
Dehydration also increases the risk of DVT, so be sure to drink enough water, about one decilitre per hour. Experts recommend avoiding coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages and fruit juices. During long-haul flights, the body needs pure water most of all.
Sitting in an airplane in a difficult position can also be hard on the stomach so you might want to avoid salads, cold meats and fish. A light, warm vegetarian dinner is the best option on a long flight.
Prepare for lengthy flights and possible delays by maintaining your general health before the flight.
If you’re overly tired, irritated, stressed or nervous pre-flight, you are at greater risk of suffering from jetlag and blood clots. If you want to be a smart traveller and enjoy your trip, stay fit: don’t smoke, exercise regularly and above all – get a good night’s sleep before departure.

4 of the best (and where to buy in Finland)

1. Traveno travel socks
€19, Instrumentarium
2. Funq Wear stylish support socks
€20.50, Kämppä
Kapteeninkatu 11, Helsinki
3. Vogue cotton support socks
€15.50, Stockmann
4. Venosan compression stockings
from €58, Terttu Lilja Oy
Mannerheimintie 69, Helsinki

Compiled and written by Tiina Alvesalo

Published May 8, 2012