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The BBC's James Westhead
"What's worrying is that it can strike previously healthy people"
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John Belstead
"You must move around during a long flight"
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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 11:08 GMT
Flight blood clots kill 'thousands'
cabin scene
Health advice is being handed out to air passengers
At least one person a month dies of a blood clot on the lungs on arrival at Heathrow Airport, say doctors.

They believe at least 2,000 people a year in the UK may die from blood clots linked to long-haul air travel.

UK airlines are concerned about the incidence of cases of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and British Airways has started issuing information to passengers about how to prevent the condition.

DVT victims arriving at Heathrow are taken to Ashford Hospital in Middlesex for treatment.

John Belstead, an accident and emergency consultant at Ashford, said his department had dealt with 30 passenger deaths in the last three years.

He said: "These are people who die as they get off the aircraft.

"Around one million people come into Heathrow on long haul flights each month so it may not seem much compared to crossing the road.

"But it is something that airlines can help prevent."

'Economy syndrome'

The condition has been dubbed "economy class syndrome" because it is thought the cramped conditions in the cheaper seats may put people more at risk.

But Mr Belstead said patients who had travelled in more spacious seating had also developed problems.

He said the problem was simply related to sitting still for long periods of time, and for this reason people on long overnight flights were at higher risk.

The clots are dangerous when they block blood vessels in the leg, or worse, in the lungs.

Travellers are advised to cut down alcohol, drink plenty of water and go for a stroll during the trip.

Mr Belstead also suggested that passengers consider taking an aspirin to thin the blood, and wearing support stockings or socks.

He said he was pleased that British Airways had decided to put warnings on its tickets about the need to move around and exercise the legs during a long-haul flight.

But he said: "I don't think there is a lot more they can do if we still want cheap flights.

"The only way they could increase space a lot would be by charging us much more money for the flights and I suspect most of us would not want to wear that."

In Australia 800 people are suing airlines because they have developed blood clots during long flights.

British Airways is issuing leaflets giving health tips
Mr Belstead said only the most severe cases became apparent at the airports.

Most passengers who suffer the condition will only go to their GP after a few days or weeks, he said.

Another problem in tracing the extent of the condition is that not all hospitals record whether blood clot patients have been on a plane.

The relatives of one passenger who died in November from deep vein thrombosis are believed to be considering legal action against the airline that carried him shortly before he fell ill.

Father-of-four Thomas Lamb, 68, died shortly after arriving at Heathrow from Australia.

Business class passenger Susan Mavir-Ross, from north Wales collapsed and died on a Virgin flight from San Francisco earlier this year.

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | C-D
Deep vein thrombosis
09 Jan 01 | Health
BA sends out blood clot warning
18 Nov 00 | Health
Study backs blood clot fears
27 Oct 00 | Health
Blood clot travel link disputed
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