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September 19, 2019 | Family Medicine
Long periods of travel can increase your risk of developing blood clots, which, in some cases, cause serious or even life-threatening complications.
Knowing the symptoms is important, as you should seek immediate medical attention if you develop a blood clot.
Although some factors can increase your risk of developing travel-related blood clots, anyone can experience this frightening condition. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of developing blood clots by taking a few simple precautions when you travel.
Travelers sometimes develop blood clots in the veins of their legs during or after long flights. This condition, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), occurs most commonly after flights that last 8-10 hours, according to the American Society of Hematology (ASH).
In most cases, clots dissolve and disappear on their own. Sometimes, however, they can become symptomatic, causing pain, swelling and warmth in the affected area. They can also break free and travel through your blood vessels.
If dislodged clots find their way to your lungs, you could experience a sudden blockage of an artery, known as a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal.
Although most commonly associated with air travel, you can develop DVT problems any time you sit in a cramped space for long periods without moving. Consequently, long car or bus trips can also increase your risk of DVT and PE.
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor before embarking on a trip that includes sitting for long periods in cramped quarters.
The most effective way to protect yourself is to move your legs often and get up and move around at least every two to three hours, according to the CDC. During air travel, selecting an aisle seat will help accommodate this activity.
As you’re sitting, repeat these calf-stretching exercises:
Another way to minimize your risk of DVT is to wear compression socks while traveling.
If you have a trip planned, talk to your family medical practitioner about any DVT or PE-related concerns. Your doctor may recommend medications or other precautions to help you avoid blood clots while traveling.
“Blood Clots During Travel.” U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“Clots and Travel.” American Society of Hematology (ASH).
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.