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How to Prevent Blood Clots When Traveling

Long plane and car rides may put you at risk of blood clots. But there are preventative steps you can take to enjoy a safe journey.

Blood clots can strike at any time, but long-distance travelers are at a greater risk of developing a serious clotting disorder known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Extended hours sitting in a cramped plane, car, or train slows blood flow to the legs and thighs. This in turn allows blood to accumulate and form into a clot.

In some instances, the clot may dissolve on its own. If it doesn’t, the clot could break away and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE). That’s why you should be aware of the signs of DVT — swelling in the calf or ankle, red-colored skin, or skin that feels hot to the touch. 

But don’t let these concerns cause you to miss out on your next trip. You can lower your risk of DVT by following a few simple precautions. 

Preventing Blood Clots When Traveling

The longer the journey, the greater the risk of developing a blood clot. Trips more than four hours put travelers at the highest risk. Other risk factors include a personal or family history of clotting disorders, varicose veins, obesity, recent or ongoing treatment for lung or breast cancer, and recent hospitalization. Pregnant women or women who have recently given birth also stand a greater chance of developing DVT, as do people over the age of 40. Taking contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy add to the list of risk factors as well.

These five recommendations can help you maintain healthy blood circulation while traveling:

  1. Walk Before Boarding. A 30-minute brisk walk prior to getting on the plane or in the car tones the calf muscles, which keeps the blood pumping from the legs to the heart.
  2. Move Around. If you’re traveling by plane or train, get up from your seat and move around the cabin as much as possible. If you’re traveling by car, take regular stops to get out and stretch your legs. 
  3. Drink Water. When you’re dehydrated, your blood tends to thicken, which raises your risk of DVT. Traveling on a plane can be especially dehydrating, so drinking an eight-ounce glass of water every two hours and avoiding coffee or alcohol is recommended to boost blood flow.
  4. Exercise While Seated. Simple activities like making circling motions with your ankles or flexing your feet toward the ceiling and then back toward the floor encourages blood flow in the legs. Stretching is also beneficial: as you place both feet on the floor, reach for your ankles by slowly leaning forward. Lastly, try elevating your legs on a leg rest or carry-on luggage to shift blood back to the heart.
  5. Wear Compression Stockings. These tight elastic garments worn on the legs support blood circulation, reducing the chance of swelling and blood clots. Available in different strengths, compression stockings can be found in drugstores or medical supply stores. The highest strength is available by prescription.

Before You Go…

Concerned about your chances of DVT or blood clots? Siragusa Vein & Laser can assess your risk factors and suggest therapies to protect your veins when you travel. Before you head on your next trip, stop by our office for a consultation. We can help ensure that your journey is a safe and healthy one.

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