Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis During Travel

If you plan on taking a long trip, you should be aware of a vein disorder that is especially common among travelers over 50.

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blot clot forms in a deep leg vein. DVT is potentially fatal because a clot could travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. The condition usually occurs in the calf and travelers are at increased risk of DVT during long plane or car rides.

The main cause is sluggish blood flow due to long periods of inactivity. Many travelers will spend two hours or more sitting in one spot during a long trip. This slowing blood flow can result in clotting, obstructing venous return, and cause your legs to swell. 

Anyone who is older and has taken a long plane flight will be familiar with the swelling you experience in the foot and calf areas. This swelling happens to most people, but it is more noticeable for someone who is suffering from a vein disorder.

The most common sign of DVT during a journey is a sudden unexplained pain in your calf, accompanied by swelling.

DVT is a serious condition, but there are simple steps that can be taken to prevent it from occurring during long periods of travel, such as:

Stay hydrated

Drink enough water during any long trip. When you are dehydrated your blood thickens, increasing your risk for a blood clot. The dry air in an airliner contributes to your body’s loss of water, so make sure you hydrate during the entirety of your travel.

Try to avoid alcohol and coffee, as they will dehydrate you.

Move around

One cause of DVT is sluggish blood flow, and you can prevent that by getting up frequently and walking along the aisle of the plane. You should walk around at least once every two hours.

If you are on a long car ride, stop every two hours to walk around to get the blood flowing. 

Shifting of your weight on alternate feet is necessary to achieve adequate blood flow. So, walking is key to getting the blood flowing and decreasing your chances for DVT.

Take medicine

Taking aspirin before a flight can go a long way in reducing your risk of DVT. Aspirin is a blood thinner, which means it can prevent blood platelets from clumping together and creating a clot.

But, consult with your doctor before using drugs like aspirin as a preventive measure, because some of the possible side effects are bleeding and stomach irritation.

Wear compression stockings

Compression stockings are special stockings or socks that apply a pressure gradient to your lower leg in order to maintain blood flow and help reduce swelling. They are available at drug stores and online. They typically start at around $35 a pair.

Compression stockings are most often used as a form of therapy after an individual is recovering from DVT, but the stocking can also be preventative. Buy a stocking with at least mild compression strength (15-20 mmHg). This is especially helpful for travelers who have mild spider veins, slight varicose veins and/or aching legs.

Wear these stockings anytime you are traveling for a long period.

One final thing…

After a trip, if you suspect you are suffering from DVT, seek medical attention immediately. It is a medical emergency and immediate treatment can be vital to your health.