One Travel Danger You Never Thought of: Blood Clots

Summertime means a lot of things, such as swimming pools and barbecues, tank tops and sandals and long days spent at the park or the beach.  It’s also peak travel season.

Many people travel long distances without a problem, but for others a long trip can be dangerous.  Hours sitting in a plane or train seat or driving a car can set the stage for a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis, also known as a blood clot.

When you sit for prolonged periods without moving around, your blood isn’t circulating at an optimal level.  The blood can pool, causing swelling; this leads to thickening of the blood and sets the stage for a clot to form.  While blood clots can form anywhere in the body they most commonly form in the legs.  Blood clots are serious because blood flow is interrupted and can cause damage to the tissues.  Even worse, a blood clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs, creating a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of a blood clot include:

  • skin that is warm or tender to the touch
  • swelling in the affected leg, including the ankle and foot
  • pain in the leg, especially a cramping pain in the calf
  • skin color that turns red, blue or pale
  • chest pain, coughing or shortness of breath can signal a pulmonary embolism

Steps you can take to prevent a blood clot:

  • if driving, pull over every one or two hours and take a brief walk
  • if flying or using other public transportation for more than a couple of hours, try to get up and walk the aisles periodically; if you are not able to move around, then do exercises in your seat.  Flex your feet up and down, stretch your legs, etc.
  • drink plenty of water:  dehydration thickens your blood
  • watch your dietary fat intake:  eating too much animal fat can predispose you to blood clots

If you experience any pain or swelling during or shortly after your trip, seek medical attention as soon as possible.  If you develop chest pain, coughing or shortness of breath, call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest emergency room.