For some long distance travelers, blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be a serious risk. Anyone traveling not just by air, but also by car, bus or train can be at risk of blood clots during prolonged trips of over four hours.
Blood Clots and Travel
Blood clots can form in the deep veins below the surface of the legs during travel. This is due to being seated in a confined space for a long period of time. The longer the travel and your period of immobility, the greater your chances of developing a clot.
In many cases, these blood clots will dissipate on their own. However, if part of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, this causes a blockage called a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
Why does travel raise your risk of DVT?
Any travel that requires an individual to sit still for more than 4 hours slows down the blood flow to the legs. Slower blood cycles increase the likelihood of clots forming. This higher blood clot risk continues post-trip for a couple of weeks.
Individuals who have a past experience with DVT, a recent surgery, cancer, blood clotting disorder, are pregnant, or taking hormones for birth control or hormone therapy have an increased risk of experiencing DVT during travel.
Ways to prevent DVT from travel?
- When traveling by car, plan rest stops every 1-2 hours to improve blood flow to your extremities.
- When traveling by bus, train or plane, stand in the aisle or in your seat to improve blood flow.
- If the space you are traveling in is confined, try raising and lowering your toes while keeping your heels on the floor. Performing this exercise every 15-20 minutes will increase blood flow.
- Drink water.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes that do not pucker at the waist or legs to encourage blood flow.
- Consider wearing medical-grade compression stockings on your legs to prevent DVT.
Post-travel DVT awareness
It is important for the first couple of weeks post-trip to be alert for any signs of a blood clot. Call your doctor right away if you have:
- Swelling, warmth or tenderness in any soft tissues of your leg.
- If the pain in your leg worsens when you stand or walk.
If any of these symptoms occur call emergency service providers:
- Sudden shortness of breath and/or chest pains
- Coughing up blood
If you’re concerned about your risk of developing blood clots while traveling, your doctor can offer additional recommendations.
“Venous Thromboembolism (Blood Clots).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/travel.html
“Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis From Travel – Topic Overview.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/dvt/tc/preventing-deep-vein-thrombosis-from-travel-topic-overview