Why do Pilots and other Flight Crew Members wear Flight Socks?
Even in our modern world traveling on long-haul flights can still be physically taxing for most healthy people and even more so for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.
Being in the confined quarters of an airplane during a long distance flight can not only be boring mentally but also physically.
The leg muscles that normally aid in pushing the blood back to the heart become inactive from hours of sitting, causing the blood circulation throughout the body to slow down considerably.
In a worst case scenario, this can create a situation where the blood flow becomes so slow that potentially dangerous blood clots can form in your legs. This potentially life threatening condition is also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and especially for air travel it has been given the curious term “economy class syndrome” although it can affect people anywhere on a plane. Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deeper veins) is a condition that can affect people of all ages whether they are physically fit or not.
Pilots and other in-flight personnel are very much aware of the potential health hazards associated with long hours of flying while standing or sitting relatively immobile.
Many flight crew members routinely wear flight socks or pantyhose on the airplane, which is special hosiery featuring graduated compression to promote blood circulation in the legs, to protect themselves against the incidence of DVT and prevent swelling of the legs.
Do you have to wear Flight Socks or how can you protect Yourself?
You can simply choose any comparable type of compression socks, stockings or pantyhose to achieve similar protection. The important part is to choose compression hosiery with graduated compression.
You may ask – “Why is that important?”
Graduated compression is important because it boosts the blood circulation back to the heart by applying the highest pressure at the ankle from where it gradually decreases going up the leg to the top of the compression stocking or support hose.
Studies conducted with airline passengers have shown that wearing graduated compression socks or compression stockings can indeed successfully prevent the occurrence of blood clots during long-haul flights.
You should be aware as well that deep vein thrombosis can also still develop after a flight, which means that it may be beneficial to keep wearing compression stockings for several days after a plane trip.
If you experience any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate emergency medical treatment:
- Severe swelling of the thigh, calf or ankle
- Pain and tenderness in the affected leg
- Skin feels very warm to the touch or
- Skin shows discoloration
A blood clot in the deeper veins can break lose and travel up through the heart to the lungs where it can become lodged. This condition called a pulmonary embolism can be very dangerous to the point of being fatal.
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Finally a Word of Caution. Before you try any type of compression hosiery or flight socks, check with your physician to ensure you have no underlying conditions such as diabetes, arterial disease or phlebitis (just to name a few) that would or may prevent you from wearing compression socks or stockings.
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