Economy Class Syndrome  

What exactly is Economy Class Syndrome? It basically refers to air travel, the economy class implies flying by an economy class. One thing good about business class and first class seats in an aircraft are that, they are spacious with sufficient leg room too. One good thing about travelling economy class is that it is cheaper than first class or business class. The bad thing about economy class air travel is that the space for seating and leg room is very tight and congested. The problems caused by this crammed seating arrangement is not only inconvenient, it is downright dangerous. In this health article we discuss the medical aspects of economy class syndrome. You also learn why, such travel can make you sick and at times results in death.

 Let's begin our discussion on the 'economy class syndrome' with a real life example. An American CEO of a widely known fashion accessory company based in Thailand, was flying from the U.S to Bangkok. As the flight was descending at Bangkok, the man complained of mild dizziness. The air crew contacted base and requested that as wheel chair be kept ready, they had a sick man aboard. The flight landed safely and the passenger was requested to sit on the wheel chair, he did so and was wheeled all through the immigration and baggage procedures.

The company had sent 2 staff members to receive him at the airport. The airport staff wheeled the passenger and took him to the meeting point where the staff were waiting. The passenger stood up from the chair and claimed that he was feeling fine. He greeted the staff who had come to receive him and all seemed fine. He then walked over to the toilet which was around 100 feet away. About 10 minutes later, the staff walked over to the toilet since the man had not returned. They knocked at the door and heard a feeble voice from inside, a few seconds later the man opened the door and seemed quite tired and worn down. He then collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. About 6 hours later, he was pronounced dead.

The doctors diagnosed the condition as 'Deep Vein Thrombosis' or DVT for short. This is the medical term for 'Economy Class Syndrome' and we will now talk about it in more detail. As the name suggests, Deep Vein Thrombosis refers to a condition that affects the deeper veins in the human body.

When a person is seated for long hours in a static position, it is likely that some of the blood in the body clots. This generally happens in the thigh or portion just below the knee. Ideally the blood clot would dissolve on it's own and nothing much would happen. Such clotting normally occurs in the deeper veins of the body.

In some cases, the clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream. If this clot lodges itself near the lungs, heart or brain, blood flow to that organ is hampered. The organ is starved of oxygen and a life threatening situation develops. This is what doctors refer to as DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis. So what does this have to do with economy class air travel? The rest of this article will take you deeper into this very important medical condition.

We mentioned at the start that, air travel in economy class means putting up with a crammed sitting space. The leg room provided is also quite tight.  Sitting in these conditions for more than 2 to 3 hours can cause blod clots to occur in the deep veins. This obviously increases the chances of a DVT condition occuring.

It is important to understand that, sitting for long haul fights that go beyond 3 to 4 hours in a still position is not good, this no matter which class you travel in. But the situation is more likely to get aggravated if the travel is being done in an economy class. It is now clear why, this medical condition has been nicknamed 'Economy Class Syndrome'. We will now discuss how to reduce the chances of being affected by DVT. It might not not always be possible to spend double the economy air fair to travel first class or business class. Fortunately, a few simple precautions and measures can be very helpful, and this without spending any additional money.

Most airlines show a small video on flight that suggests few simple excerises, these to increase blood circulation in the body. Pay attention to the video and try doing at least some of the suggested moves. Try these moves every hour, do them for around 10 minutes (includes all moves). This is probably about 10 times per move.

 You can try raising your feet about 6 inches from the floor and placing it back on the floor. This while remaining seated. Keep your heel on the floor and raise the toes as high as you can. Then place the toes on the floor and raise the heel, up and down. Do these moves around 8 to 10 times. Hold your palm up at around face level (when seated), close your fingers in squeeze them closed for about 15 seconds then open them again. Repeat this around 5 to 6 times per palm. Get up from your seat once every hour (at least) take a stroll in the aisle, a short 3 minute stint would be sufficient.

Tea, coffee and alcohol should be consumed in moderation, avoid them altogether if you can. However make sure that you drink plenty of water and even fruit juices if available. Consuming these liquids help reduce body dehydration. They might cause you to visit the toilet more often but, the walk to the toilet has benefits related to blood circulation too.

After disembarking from the flight at your destination, make sure that you have some continued movements at your home or in the hotel. It is not a good idea to go immediately to bed once you reach home or hotel. Keep your movements active for at least 15 to 20 minutes. You should now be better resourced for room space and leg room, swing your arms and legs around. Drink at least 1 or 2 glasses of water, some cut fruit would also be a good idea.

The dangers of DVT are real, quite a few cases of such a condition after air travel have been reported and many have resulted in death. The above suggestions can go a long way in reducing the chances of getting such an attack, they can also help reduce the severity of the condition. The emergence of low cost and budget airlines can increase such incidents. These airlines cram more passengers in an aircraft, this is one of the main ways to reduce cost of flying! Email us at if you have any comments on this health article or any other content on this website.