Reducing The Risk Of Blood Clots When You Travel

June 9th, 2019 Becki Andrus
An emergency department sign.

While our blood will normally flow steadily throughout our body, that progression will also stop if we encounter an injury, or we if accidentally cut ourselves. When that occurs, our blood platelets and plasma proteins become thick and form a gel-like mass. This is a protection mechanism that is designed to plug the impacted area and stop the bleeding.

While the benefit of this is clear, the clotting process can also take place even if there is no injury present. If your blood contacts a substance in your blood vessel wall, the clotting effect can be triggered. The platelets can continue to build as your blood continues to move more slowly than normal, which can result in a blood clot.

Understanding DVTs and PEs

If a clot emerges within a deep vein in the body, this is referred to as deep vein thrombosis or DVT, and most DVTs occur in the lower leg or thigh. If the vein also swells, then the condition is referred to as thrombophlebitis. That can create serious health issues if a clot moves from the leg or thigh to another part of your body such as your heart, or lungs.

One of the scenarios in which this unwanted clotting process can take place occurs when you are sitting in a restricted space for a long period of time. Your risk of contending with a blood clot rises along with the duration of time that you remain stationary in these situations, and this is certainly a scenario that can transpire when you are traveling for a long distance during a flight. This can also take place with any other form of transportation that involves a lengthy journey in a confined space.

Your risk of contending with a blood clot rises along with the duration of time that you remain stationary in these situations. as your body will have more difficulty maintaining your circulation by pumping blood from your legs to your heart, which could lead to the formation of a clot.

There is the possibility that a clot can also separate and progress into the lungs. This can create a blockage in your lungs, which is also referred to as a pulmonary embolism (PE).

According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), over 300 million people travel on flights that are of at least four hours in duration every year. These are considered to be long-distance flights, and the risk of experiencing a DVT as the result of a long flight is genuine.

The CDC states that around 900,000 people in the U.S. might be impacted by a DVT or PE every year, while 60,000-100,000 of these situations will become fatal. Between 10-30% of these deadly cases occur during the initial month of diagnosis, while around 25% of the individuals who have a PE will experience a sudden fatality.

Increasing The Risk Of A DVT

The CDC also states that the chances of developing a travel-related blood clot rise if any of these factors are present:

  • A history of blood clots in your family
  • Being at least 40-years old
  • Obesity
  • A recent surgery
  • Limited mobility
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Being pregnant or in the postpartum period
  • Having active cancer or a previous cancer treatment
  • Varicose veins
  • Usage of a catheter that is placed in a large vein

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to protect your health and reduce your risk of blood clots during a long-distance trip.

Symptoms Of DVTs And PEs

Some people will not notice any symptoms if they are dealing with a DVT but others will develop swelling, pain, tenderness or redness in the area where the DVT is located. You should contact your physician immediately if you believe that you are contending with a DVT.

If a deep vein thrombosis is present and causes a pulmonary embolism, then your situation has become more serious. You might experience shortness of breath, and pain in your chest and both the discomfort and difficulty in breathing can be intensified if you attempt to twist your body in the direction of your pain.

A rapid or irregular heartbeat, fever, dizziness, and excessive sweating are also indications that a PE has occurred.  You should seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Reducing The Risks of DVTs During Long Distance Travel

If you are a passenger on a long flight, you can take steps to avoid experiencing a DVT. This can begin by making sure that you are sitting in an aisle seat, then getting up and walking every hour. If you are traveling on a long drive, scheduling regular walking breaks will reduce your risk of a DVT.

While you are seated, you can move your calf and leg muscles by raising and dropping your heels while your toes remain stationary on the floor. Then, reverse the process by moving your toes while your heels are static on the floor.

Wearing compression stockings that properly fit your legs can also be an effective resource toward increasing the blood flow in your legs while diminishing the prospects that a clot will form.

You can also discuss your upcoming trip with a doctor, in order to verify that you are able to take a baby aspirin one hour before takeoff. You should also drink at least eight ounces of water every 1-2 hours, while also avoiding alcohol and caffeine.

At Orthopedic Associates, We Are Here To Help

If you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis, or have any questions or concerns about these blood clots, the professionals at Orthopedic Associates are ready to provide you with the expertise that can only result from their 183 combined years of experience. This is beneficial in their ability to design effective treatment plans for DVTs, along with any other issues that might be occurring with your leg, or knee.


Our specialists at Orthopedic Associates also treat a wide range of other knee conditions, including:

  • Anatomy of the Knee
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear (ACL Tear)
  • Avascular Necrosis (Osteonecrosis) of the Knee
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Fractures of the Tibial Spine
  • Goosefoot (Pes Anserine) Bursitis of the Knee
  • Hamstring Muscle Injuries
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury
  • Meniscus Tear
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
  • Osteoarthritis of the Knee
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Knee
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Patella Fracture (Broken Knee Cap)
  • Patella Tendon Rupture
  • Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee)
  • Patellar Tracking Disorder
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)
  • Prepatellar Bursitis (Kneecap Bursitis)
  • Quadriceps Tendon Tear
  • Septic Arthritis of the Knee
  • Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)
  • Supracondylar Femoral Fracture
  • Tibial Fractures
  • Tibial Plateau Fracture
  • Torn Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)

Even if leg or knee issues are not your primary concern, we also offer multiple solutions for a wide range of conditions – both with or without surgery. Visit one of Orthopedic Associates two locations or request an appointment today. We are fully committed to paving the path toward a pain-free life for you. 

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