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Summer Travel Advice for avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis

Jilanne Rose, DNP ANP-BC
May 27, 2016

airplane_travel and Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis and Travel

Ready to enjoy some summer time travel? Make sure your trip is not shortened by a serious health concern. Small, cramped seating on an airplane, or sitting in a car for a prolonged period of time, may be more of a problem that just causing discomfort.  Inactivity in a confined space can slow circulation and cause legs to swell and become painful. Sitting with bent knees compress the deep vein behind the knee, potentially creating a blood clot to form.

DVT Risks

Dry air, decreased oxygen, low cabin pressure, and alcohol consumption in a plane cause dehydration, making blood more concentrated and sluggish. Any combination of these factors can increase the risk of a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg).

You’re at an even greater risk of a DVT if you have an inherited condition that increases your risk of a blood clot, are being treated for cancer, have varicose veins, or have low blood flow due to recent surgery. Additional factors which increase your risk of DVT include: being pregnant, overweight, taking birth control pills or hormone therapy, or over the age of 60.

  • Traveling by airplane? Get up and move around whenever possible. Walking up and down the aisles once an hour is highly recommended, especially during longer flights.
  • Traveling by car? Take a break every one to two hours to have a short walk. Pull over in a safe area, get out of the car, walk briskly, breathe deeply, and gently stretch.

If you cannot get up or out of your seat; exercise in your seat by flexing your feet and moving your legs to improve blood flow in the calves; try 30-40 of these movements every half-hour.

Other things to consider when traveling long distances:

  • Ask your vein specialist about appropriate compression stockings.
  • Consume plenty of water and limit alcohol when flying.
  • Don’t wear tight clothing.
  • Avoid crossing your legs at the knee when sitting.
  • Store your bags in a place where they won’t hinder your leg movement.

Ultrasound for Deep Vein Thrombosis Image

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