FAQs  |  The Risk of Blood Clots During Travel

 

The Risk of Blood Clots During Travel

Jeffrey Y. Wang, MD

Millions of people travel long-distances every year, and it’s important to know that as the time duration of travel increases you have a greater chance of developing a blood clot. Blood clots can form during travel because people are confined and sitting still for a long period of time, and the longer you are immobile the greater your risk of developing a blood clot. If a blood clot does form, not only can it cause pain, swelling, and discomfort in the leg, but also a life-threating situation can occur if part of the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism.

There are many things that can be done to help protect your health and reduce your risk of a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during long-distance travel. Most people who develop a blood clot during travel have one or more other risks for clots such as:

  • A personal or family history of having DVT
  • Older age (risk increases after age 60, but DVT can happen at any age)
  • Hormone therapy for birth control or to reduce postmenopausal symptoms
  • Pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after childbirth
  • Injury due to surgery, a broken bone, or other trauma
  • Prolonged lack of movement due to hospitalization, illness, injury, or paralysis
  • Recent or ongoing treatment for cancer Respiratory or heart failure
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • Inherited blood disorders that make your blood thicker or more likely to clot than normal
  • Varicose veins
  • A central venous catheter
  • Obesity (body mass index, or BMI, greater than 30kg/m2)
  • Smoking

The combination of long-distance travel and one or more of these risks may increase the likelihood of a clot forming. The more risks you have, the greater your chances of experiencing a blood clot. If you plan to travel, be sure to talk with your doctor about how to protect your health and more importantly know the signs and symptoms of blood clots. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Know what to look for. Be aware of the signs and symptoms.
  • Talk with your doctor if you are at increased risk for blood clots.
  • Move your legs frequently during long trips and exercise your calf muscles to improve blood flow. Stretch your legs if you've been sitting for a long period of time.
  • Consider wearing compression stockings to help with blood flow in your legs.

 

 

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