How to Reduce the Risk of Blood Clots During Travel | Revere Health

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.

The Relationship Between Blood Clots and 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. 

Are You at Risk for Travel-Related Blood Clots?

According to ASH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any of the following factors can increase your risk of developing DVT and PE:

  • Current or recent pregnancy
  • Hormone-based contraceptive (birth control) use 
  • Recent surgery
  • Personal or family history of blood clots
  • Obesity
  • Being age 60 or above
  • Smoking
  • Clotting disorders
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Chronic inflammatory disease
  • Cancer or chemotherapy

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.

Steps to Reduce Your Blood Clot Risk When Traveling

Both the CDC and ASH recommend taking precautions to reduce your risk of DVT and PE while on trips.

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:

  • Raise your toes while keeping your heels on the floor.
  • Raise your heels while keeping your toes on the floor.
  • Tense and relax the muscles of your legs.

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.

Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages and providing thorough and timely healthcare for the entire family throughout all stages of life.

Sources:

“Blood Clots During Travel.”  U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/dvt

 

“Clots and Travel.” American Society of Hematology (ASH).

https://www.hematology.org/Patients/Clots/Travel.aspx

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.

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