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Tips for Preventing Blood Clots While Traveling

Tips for Preventing Blood Clots While Traveling

Are you traveling on a long trip or sitting for an extended period of time? Remember to take five, and give yourself a break at least once per hour. Your body will thank you for getting the blood flowing again. Here are some basics on deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and information about what you can do to prevent blood clots.

Airplanes passenger view inside the plane

Risk Factors

Everybody is susceptible to DVT; however, factors such as surgery or injury increase risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Dehydration
  • History of blood clots
  • Smoking
  • Taking estrogen (oral contraceptive tablets or hormone replacement therapy)
  • Having a chronic condition (congestive heart failure, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], nephrotic syndrome)
  • Lack of movement – risk is three times higher when on a “long haul” – eight or more hours on a plane, car, or train.
  • Age
    • After age 60, the risk of blood clots increases considerably.
    • There is an 80-fold increase in the risk of blood clots for an 80-year-old versus a 20-year-old.

Ways to Prevent Blood Clots

Getting blood flow back from the leg to the heart demands muscle movement. Preventing blood clots can be as simple as walking down the aisle while flying or wiggling your toes while cruising through the countryside.

When traveling, wear loose, comfortable clothing. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated (and lay off the alcohol). Do not smoke right before flying. If you have had a pulmonary embolism in the last three months, you should not travel. Airlines are especially risky since they’re pressurized to lower oxygen levels.

Sitting at a desk all day? Every hour, take a quick walk down the hall for water or a bathroom break. All it takes is a few calf raises or foot taps to encourage blood flow. For those in a wheelchair, foot movements are still beneficial, as is an active assistive range of motion.

If you are at higher risk of DVT, preventative measures may include wearing graduated compression garments (knee highs) or taking a mini dose of blood thinner before the trip.


Since 90 percent of all blood clots occur in the legs, the most common symptom is a pain in one leg. The area might be swollen, reddened, and warm to the touch.

If you are experiencing sudden shortness of breath and pain in your chest when you breathe deeply, it is possible that the clot isn’t allowing blood to flow into your lungs’ arteries. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.

To find out more about DVT and available treatment options, visit Altru’s Heart and Vascular Services or schedule an appointment by calling 701.780.6400.