UAE: Taking a long-haul flight this summer? You could be at risk for blood clots; what to know

Exercising, hydration, staying entertained, and eating wisely on flights are important, say medics


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Tue 18 Jun 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 23 Jun 2024, 6:24 PM

With summer vacations fast approaching and many people set to travel, staying active becomes imperative, especially on long-haul flights, highlighted doctors in the UAE.

The cramped seats, limited legroom, and the monotony of being confined to a small space for hours on end can make the idea of sleeping very appealing.

However, the secret to not just surviving but actually making the most of a long-haul flight often involves staying active and engaged in ways that counteract air travel challenges and prevent one’s body from getting super stiff.

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Reasons for feeling unwell

Healthcare professionals explained some of the common issues faced during long-haul flights.

“Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which are clots in the legs, can be dangerous. Back and neck pains and shoulder injuries are often caused by lifting heavy luggage improperly. Dehydration leads to various health issues and motion or air sickness is also a common problem for many travellers,” said Dr Mahesh Cirasanambati, Managing Director, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Burjeel Holdings.

Dr Mahesh Cirasanambati. Photo: Supplied
Dr Mahesh Cirasanambati. Photo: Supplied

Healthcare professionals emphasised that staying active on a long flight can help people in a lot of ways to reduce stress, improve blood circulation, relax their bodies, and enhance their mood.

Keep exercising

Medics reiterate that with a bit of preparation one’s journey can be as enjoyable as the destination. They pointed out that once the seat belt sign is off, one must get up and walk for three to five minutes whenever possible during the flight.

Laiba Ashfaq, Physiotherapist at Aman Lil Afia Clinic explains some simple exercises that can help prevent stiffness.

Laiba Ashfaq. Photo: Supplied
Laiba Ashfaq. Photo: Supplied

“Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this 10 to15 times. Lift your feet off the floor and move as if you’re drawing a circle with your toes then reverse direction. Do this for 15 seconds,” she said.

“Keep your heel on the floor and lift the front of your feet towards you. Hold this position for a second or two then flatten your feet 10 to15. Raise your heel, keep the front of the feet on the floor, hold this position for a second or two then flatten your heel around 15 times. Bend your knee and bring your knee closer to your chest and hold the position for two to five seconds and then relax. Repeat the same for the other leg for about ten times for each side,” she added.

Proper hydration

Doctors also stressed that proper hydration reduces the risk of clots and cramps.

Dr Hina Salam Siddiqui, Specialist Family Medicine at Zulekha Medical Centre, Al Khan said: “Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated to help prevent muscle cramps. Do neck stretches. Tilt your head side to side and forward to stretch your neck muscles.”

Dr Hina Salam Siddiqui. Photo: Supplied
Dr Hina Salam Siddiqui. Photo: Supplied

Staying entertained and eating wisely can also help maintain energy levels.

“Roll your shoulders forward and backward to relieve tension. Do arm stretches which are important where travellers can extend their arms overhead and to the sides to stretch. Additionally, wearing compression socks can help improve circulation and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT),” added Siddiqui.


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