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Published on June 21, 2019

Deep Vein Thrombosis: How to Decrease the Risk of Blood Clots on Long Trips

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Now that the sun is shining and the weather has warmed up, the urge to travel may strike. When it does, trips are planned, cars are packed, and airline tickets are booked. During your planning, don’t forget to consider your health.

A blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a health risk that can be linked to prolonged travel. That is because when we sit still for a stretch of time, blood has a chance to pool and clot, usually in a leg. The result is not only painful, but can be life-threatening.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) you are especially at risk for a DVT if one or more of the following is true for you: you are over 40, on birth control, have a BMI greater than 30, are pregnant or within 3 months of giving birth, or have cancer, a catheter or varicose veins.

Yes, this may be a scary thought, but there is good news! Some simple planning and activity can help decrease your risk for this potentially dangerous problem and allow you to enjoy your trip.

Plan ahead

Discuss your travel plans with your doctor, who may prescribe graduated compression stockings to help prevent DVTs and swelling.

Do these simple exercises in the car or plane:

Straighten your knees and then pump your ankles, bringing toes towards your nose, then toes towards the ground Seated marches: Lift one knee to the sky, let it back down and then lift the other, like you are in a marching band Seated step out: Sitting down, step sideways with one leg, keeping your knees over your toes, and then step back in to bring your feet back together. Repeat with the other side. Pull one knee up towards your chest, hold for 15 seconds and then repeat with the other

Just a few of these done intermittently on your trip can really help.

Take Breaks!

Move your legs and walk around every 2-3 hours. This is a perfect time to fill up the car with gas, take a bathroom break, or walk the aisles of a plane. Try walking around your car or around a safe area for 3-5 minutes if possible.

Symptoms of a DVT:

Swelling of leg or arm
Pain or tenderness that is unexplainable
Redness of skin
Warmth of skin to the touch

If you are having symptoms, seek medical help immediately! Enjoy your adventure and stay safe! Remember that with just a little effort you can steer clear of DVT trouble.

About the Author

Marina Moser, PT, DPTMarina Moser, PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist at Alamance Regional Outpatient Rehab