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How to avoid blood clots when traveling

Posted by on in Primary Care
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141118BloodClotsPlanning to make a trip to see relatives for the holidays? Whether you're flying or driving, it's important to stretch those legs and stay hydrated to avoid blood clots that can develop when sitting for prolonged periods of time. Even those who work at a desk all day can benefit from the following tips.

What is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis (throm-BO-sis), or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside the body. These clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together. Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh. They also can occur in other parts of the body.

Prolonged sitting or immobility is the primary reason why the risk increases during travel; blood that is not moving has a tendency to clot. People are at a heightened risk when they are immobile for 1-2 hours or longer.  

Those at higher risk

There are certain medical conditions, such as pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, immobility, venous stasis and others, that can increase the chances of DVT. The best way to prevent this condition is to move every 1-2 hours.

Here are a few movements that can be done, even in a confined space:

  • Foot pumps: Place your feet flat on the floor, then raise your toes toward you and hold for a few seconds. Lower your toes and balls of your feet to the floor, then raise your heels and hold for a few seconds.
  • Ankle circles: Raise both feet off the floor and trace a circle with your toes.
  • Leg raises: If you have room in front of you, raise your left foot off the floor. Straighten your leg slowly, then return your foot to the floor. Repeat with your right leg. Otherwise, slowly lift your left knee up to your chest, then bring your foot back to the floor; repeat with your right leg.

Stay hydrated

People often avoid drinking fluids during a long trip because they don't want to get up on the plane to use the bathroom or make frequent stops when on the road. But it's important to increase your fluid intake and stay well hydrated. Certain drinks to avoid include: tea, alcohol, coffee and soft drinks with caffeine. These drinks can increase urination and add to dehydration. Water is your best bet.

DVT Symptoms

About half of those people who experience DVT have no symptoms at all. But when symptoms do arise, they normally occur in the affected part of the body (usually the legs). If you experience these symptoms seek medical attention immediately:

  • Swelling
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Redness of the skin
  • Shortness of breath

If you know that you fall into the higher risk category due to an existing condition, talk with your medical provider prior to taking an extended trip.

Tagged in: Blood Clots Travel