Avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis During Long Trips

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

DVT is a blood clot that forms in the extremities like a leg.  When sitting for long periods of time, clots can become dislodged and travel to the heart or brain causing injury or death.  Some people with certain medical conditions are more likely to be at risk.  For instance,

  • blood-clotting disorders
  • cancer
  • smoking or getting older
  • major illness for which you were hospitalized
  • obesity or heart disease
  • hormone therapy
  • family history of DVT
  • pregnancy
  • recent surgery or trauma

Symptoms

Symptoms might include pain or swelling in the immediate area, redness, chest pain or problems breathing.  If you experience any of these symptoms, get seen by a doctor immediately.  A traveling nurse suggested that older persons take low dose aspirin a week before traveling and a week after the trip.  Check with your doctor before doing so.

You can reduce your risks by changing leg position frequently or getting up and walking around as often as possible.  Do not cross your legs or ankles as that puts pressure on the veins.  Drink liquids like water and juices but minimize alcohol and caffeine.  Wear loose-fitting clothes.  Doctors may recommend graduated compression stockings for some patients but consult with them before purchasing any.

Exercises

Here are some exercises the airlines recommend in-flight:

  1. Ankle circles
  2. Foot pumps (both toe points and heel points)
  3. Knee lifts for 30 seconds
  4. knee to chest lifts.  (hold for 15 seconds and alternate legs)

If you are especially worried that you could have a problem, consider another form of transportation where you can get out, stretch and walk frequently.

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