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Choosing the aisle could keep you healthy

Concerned about deep-vein thrombosis and blood clots when flying? Researchers suggest you sit on the aisle on your next flight.
/ Source: Reuters

Mulling over the window or the aisle seat on your next flight? Pick the aisle to help avoid dangerous blood clots — and flying business class will make no difference, according to a U.S. study.

A review of medical issues associated with commercial flights found that in-flight medical events are becoming more common as more elderly people and those with pre-existing medical conditions fly and also flights last for longer.

But researchers from the U.S.'s Lahey Clinic Medical Center confirmed that sitting in the aisle can help ward off potentially dangerous deep-vein thrombosis or blood clots.

They found that 75 percent of cases of deep-vein thrombosis were due to people not moving enough and most sufferers were in non-aisle seats where passengers tended to move less.

Mark Gendreau, who led the study, said it made no difference if people were sitting in economy class or business class when it came to blood clots.

Wearing compression stockings has been proven to reduce the risk, said the report published in the British medical journal The Lancet, as well as other common sense recommendations such as drinking lots of water and cutting back on alcohol and caffeine.

Studies showed that the risk of developing blood clots on a flight rose up to four-fold, depending on study methods, with the risk starting to rise on flights of over four hours and peak on flights of more than eight hours.

Gendreau played down concerns about catching an infection off someone on a plane — unless they were within two rows of you.

And for jet lag, try a dose of melatonin at the bedtime of the desired destination.

But while the researchers found a greater number of in-flight medical events, they found most were minor with cardiac, neurological and respiratory complaints the most serious events.

But the researchers did suggest looking at the quality of cabin air which has been linked to passenger and flight crew complaints of dry eyes, stuffy nose and skin irritation, as well as headaches, lightheadedness and confusion.

Gendreau said air passengers needed to have a clear understanding of the medical consequences of commercial flights.

“Individuals need to be aware of the possible medical complications of air travel, and physicians should identify people at potential risk from air travel and advise them of any necessary treatments to travel safely,” he said in a statement.