Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis From Travel

Overview

What is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot (thrombus) in a deep vein, usually in the legs. A DVT can be dangerous because it can break loose and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. There it can block blood flow in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). This can be life-threatening.

How can you help prevent DVT from travel?

Even if you are healthy and have a low risk of blood clots, a long flight or road trip raises your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Sitting still for 4 or more hours slows down the blood flow in your legs. This makes your blood more likely to clot. And for the next few weeks, your blood clot risk stays higher than normal.

Here are some tips to prevent DVT during a long trip.

  • Stop every hour or so if you are traveling by car.

    Get out and walk around for a few minutes. If you are traveling by bus, train, or plane, get out of your seat and walk up and down the aisle every hour or so.

  • Exercise in place.

    While you're sitting, raise and lower your toes, keeping your heels on the floor. Then raise and lower your heels, keeping your toes on the floor. Do this every 20 minutes.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes that aren't tight around your waist or your legs.

If you already have a risk of blood clots, talk to your doctor before taking a long trip. Your doctor may want you to wear compression stockings or take blood-thinning medicine.

When to call a doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services if you have pulmonary embolism symptoms, including:

  • Sudden shortness of breath.
  • Sharp chest pain that sometimes gets worse with deep breathing or coughing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Fainting.
  • Rapid pulse or irregular heartbeat.
  • Anxiety or sweating.

Call your doctor now if you have DVT symptoms, including:

  • Swelling, warmth, or tenderness in the soft tissues of your leg. Swelling may also appear as a swollen ridge along a blood vessel that you can feel.
  • Pain in your leg that gets worse when you stand or walk. This is especially important if there is also swelling or redness in your leg.

Credits

Current as of: July 6, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Jeffrey S. Ginsberg MD - Hematology