Avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis While Traveling

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With summer upon us, many Americans have and will take to the roads or the air, traveling domestically and abroad. In fact, Independence Day 2015 saw the most American travelers—41.9 million to be precise—since 2007.

No matter when you travel or your preferred mode of transportation, sitting for many hours on end may put some travelers at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of your leg, causing pain and swelling at the affected site. The condition can turn deadly if that clot breaks free and travels to the blood vessels of the brain, heart, and lungs.

DVT is relatively common. The American Heart Association estimates that 1 in 1,000 Americans develop DVT every year. So if you’re planning a big trip, here are five tips to travel safe:

1. Take walking breaks

Sitting for long periods of time can reduce the blood flow to your legs and increase your risk of developing a clot. When possible, walk up and down the aisles of planes, buses or trains. If you’re driving long distances, stop every hour to take a walking break.

2. Do seated exercises

Just because you’re sitting doesn’t mean you have to be inactive. Doing leg exercises while you’re in your seat can help prevent DVT. Flexing your feet and moving your legs can increase blood flow from your calves to your heart. About once every 30 minutes, do exercises like moving your feet up and down like you’re pumping the gas pedal of a car. For air travel, ask for an aisle seat when possible so you have more room to wiggle and keep your blood flowing. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid crossing your legs while seated as this can constrict blood flow.

3. Stay hydrated

When you’re traveling long distances it’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough water. Too little water can cause your blood volume to decrease, which may lead to a higher risk of clotting.

4. Wear compression socks

If you’re at risk for or have a history of DVT, you can wear compression socks that help increase the blood flow to your legs. These socks squeeze your legs, forcing blood from the outer blood vessels of your calf into the deep veins.

5. Wear loose clothing

While traveling, don’t wear clothing that is tight and constricts your blood flow at your waist or legs. Rather, wear loose clothing that doesn’t cut off your circulation. Stow your bags somewhere where they won’t restrict your ability to move.