Blood clots can form in the deep veins (veins below the surface that are not visible through the skin) of your legs during travel because you are sitting still in a confined space for long periods of time. The longer you are immobile, the greater is your risk of developing a blood clot. Many times the blood clot will dissolve on its own.
Understand What Can Increase Your Risk for Blood Clots
|Have You Got Any of the Risk Factors for DVT?|
• Recent surgery or injury (within 3 months)
• Use of estrogen-containing contraceptives (for example, birth control pills, rings,patches)
• Hormone replacement therapy (medical treatment in which hormones are given to reduce the effects of menopause)
• Pregnancy and the postpartum period (up to 6 weeks after childbirth)
• Previous blood clot or a family history of blood clots
• Active cancer or recent cancer treatment
• Limited mobility (for example, a leg cast)
• Catheter placed in a large vein
• Varicose veins
The combination of long-distance travel with one or more of these risks may increase the likelihood of developing a blood clot. The more risks you have, the greater your chances of experiencing a blood clot. If you plan on traveling soon, talk with your doctor to learn more about what you can do to protect your health. The most important thing you can do is to learn and recognize the symptoms of blood clots.
Recognize the Symptoms of DVT
|Symptoms and Signs of DVT|
About half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all. The following are the most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the affected part of the body (usually the leg or arm):
1. Swelling of your leg or arm
2. Pain or tenderness that you can't explain
3. Skin that is warm to the touch
4. Redness of the skin
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
You can have a PE without any symptoms of a DVT. Symptoms of a PE can include:
1. Difficulty breathing
2. Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
3. Chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
5. Coughing up blood
6. Lightheadedness, or fainting
If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Protect Yourself and Reduce Your Risk of Blood Clots During Travel
|Protect Yourself From DVT During Travel|
• Move your legs frequently when on long trips and exercise your calf muscles to improve the flow of blood. If you've been sitting for a long time, take a break to stretch your legs. Extend your legs straight out and flex your ankles (pulling your toes toward you). Some airlines suggest pulling each knee up toward the chest and holding it there with your hands on your lower leg for 15 seconds, and repeat up to 10 times. These types of activities help to improve the flow of blood in your legs.
• If you are at risk, talk with your doctor to learn more about how to prevent blood clots. For example, some people may benefit by wearing graduated compression stockings.
• If you are on blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations on medication use.