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Economy Class Syndrome

In 1988, physicians reported several patients who developed clots in their legs after traveling in tightly cramped seats on an airplane. It was called THE ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME on the theory that close seats cause a person to bend his knees which slow the flow of blood in the legs enough to cause clots to form. Since the term Economy Class Syndrome sounded catchy, other authors quickly wrote articles confirming the existence of an Economy Class Syndrome. However, all they did was report more cases of people getting clots after they traveled on an airplane.

You can get a clot after jumping out of a plane, sitting at your desk, running, cycling, making love, eating breakfast or doing anything else. The only way that you can show that sitting in an airplane causes clots to form is to show that you are more likely to suffer clot while sitting in an airplane than doing anything else. A study reported in Lancet concluded that there is no such thing as an Economy Class Syndrome. People who fly in planes in economy class are no more likely to suffer leg clots than people doing anything else. So you don't have to spend hundreds of extra dollars when you fly. The extra money does nothing to protect you from clots. Fly economy class and feel secure that people who fly first class are not going to enjoy better health than you, even though they may be more comfortable.

If you suddenly feel pain in your calf muscles or you get a sudden pain in your chest, you could have a clot. A clot in your leg veins is particularly dangerous because the clot can dislodge from your legs and travel to your lungs where it can block the flow of blood which can kill you. If you get sudden pain in your legs, and it hurts to squeeze your calf and you have not suddenly pulled a muscle during intense exercise, check with your doctor immediately. If you have a clot, you may need to stay in bed and take anticoagulants to prevent the clot from spreading to your lungs.

Lancet, October 28, 2000, page 1492

Checked 12/9/09

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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