What is "economy class syndrome?" I thought it referred to dark circles under the eyes, cramped legs and sore necks that are part of the joy of long flights. Recently I learned that "economy class syndrome" is a more serious condition, a blood clot, usually in the legs, that can occur as a result of sitting for long periods of time, immobile. The condition is rare but potentially fatal, and people on international flights are more susceptible.
How can you survive long flights and arrive feeling -- and looking -- good? The key is activity and sleep. Here are some travel-tested tips:
• Wear loose-fitting clothes. Frequent international travelers choose comfortable slacks or long skirts so they can easily cross their legs. Don't wear tight socks or nylon knee-high stockings. If they leave a mark on your leg, then they're too tight to wear for long periods of immobility.
• Elevate your feet. Put your carry-on luggage under your feet and raise them off the floor to increase circulation and minimize swelling.
• Use the pillow offered by the airline. And if you aren't offered a pillow, ask for one. Place it in the curve of your lower back for support.
• Bring an inflatable-neck travel pillow. A good investment. They are inexpensive and readily available; most international airports have luggage and accessory stores that carry them. An inflatable pillow keeps the head up and prevents pulled muscles.
• Avoid drinks or snacks high in sodium such as Bloody or Virgin Marys, pretzels or peanuts. Read the labels! If you consume too much salt during a long trip, your feet may swell so much you won't be able to put your shoes back on. I've seen people walk off the plane in socks, carrying their shoes!