Travel & DVT: How to Decrease Your Risk of Developing Blood Clots on Your Next Trip
Did you know travel can increase your risk of developing blood clots?
Studies have shown that traveling for extended periods of time (or longer than 4 hours) can elevate your chances of developing a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) or PE (Pulmonary Embolism). Many have even coined the term “economy class syndrome” to describe DVT symptoms that occur during and following long flights.
While these symptoms aren’t directly related to where you’re sitting on the plane, they are associated with the inactivity that comes with sitting in a cramped seat for longer periods of time during travel. But don’t worry we’re not going to tell you to stop enjoying those vacations abroad and impromptu weekend getaways! Instead, we’re going to give you all the facts & tips we know for an overall effort to keep you healthy and happy during future travels.
Taking all the necessary precautions you can before and during a flight is key:
- Stay away from alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, stick to water and lots of it. Alcohol and caffeine dehydrate your body and elevate your risk.
- Get up and stretch regularly. The RejuvaHealth Team makes a point to get up and walk around the cabin every hour. (This goes for road trips too- get out of that jam-packed car and take in the scenery)
- Absolutely NO sleeping pills. Short-lived sleeping “comas” keep you from recognizing the onset of leg pains and cramps.
- Watch your salt intake. Too much salt elevates your blood pressure which may cause blood clots. Note: This is an all-around useful tip to use in everyday life as well.
- Do NOT sit with crossed legs. Remember to increase blood flow in your legs when sitting by performing stretches. Try rotating your ankles in a circular motion to help keep them from getting stiff (see picture A below). Raising your toes with your heels, (or vice versa), while on the floor and in the air is also a great stretch (pictures B & C).
- Wear loose-fitting clothing. Skinny jeans and tight waist belts are super constricting. If you have a meeting or someone special to see immediately following the flight consider changing before landing or while you wait for your baggage.
- Invest in a pair of compression tights. Knee high compression stockings alone can make a world of a difference. Compression is designed to distribute the greatest amount of pressure at the ankle and gradually less as it advances towards the thigh. This pressure aids in the reduction of blood pooling in the legs, consequently reducing leg pain and swelling associated with air travel.
So you’ve made it through the delayed flight and filed your lost baggage claim, but something still isn’t right. Be aware of these deep vein thrombosis symptoms that can set in immediately following or even days after travel: DVT – A clot in the legs
- Warm to the touch
- Pain or tenderness
- Swelling in one leg
- Skin discoloration- blue or red
- Chest pain that gets worse with each breath
- Shortness of breath
- Unexpected coughing with blood
- Increased heart rate
- Cancer patient
- Age 65 or older
- Recent surgery
- Hormonal birth control
- Blood clotting disorder