When Should I Worry About...

How to Avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis While Traveling

Nov. 15, 2019 - George Kovacik

Recently, I was talking to one of our doctors about my family’s impending trip to Australia to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. He was telling me that I should buy some compression stockings.

Now, when I was a kid, I used to see my mom wear these all the time after she had varicose vein surgery. They were ugly and I thought they were just for people with really bad veins. He informed me that was not the case and without them I might be at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that most people don’t think about when they are packing for an exciting long distance vacation.

What is deep vein thrombosis?

DVT occurs when blood clots form in the deep vein of the lower legs and thighs. Sitting for long periods of time — either on an airplane or a car — can limit circulation in the legs, leading to a blood clot forming in the vein. The clot can travel unnoticed through the blood stream and lodge in the brain, lungs, heart and other areas of the body. This can cause severe damage to organs and, in some cases, death.

Symptoms of DVT can include:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Increased warmth in one leg


Some 2 million Americans are stricken with DVT every year, and nearly 200,000 die from the condition. DVT is most often found in people over 60, but can occur in any age group.

The good news is the problem can be easily avoided.

Tips for preventing deep vein thrombosis while traveling

Dr. Alan Lumsden, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, says if you plan to go overseas or on a long drive, make sure you:

  • Stand up and walk around at least every two hours
  • Avoid sleeping more than four hours at a time
  • Drink plenty of water or juices
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Eat light meals
  • Limit your alcohol consumption


Compression stockings are also helpful, especially for people with venous problems or the elderly. These help prevent clots from forming in the deep veins.

If you do not have the opportunity to get up every couple of hours, consider doing the following exercises while sitting down:

  • Extend both legs and move both feet back and forth in a circular motion.
  • Move the knee up to the chest and hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  • Put both feet on the floor and point them upward. Also, put both feet flat and lift both heels as high as possible.


In some cases, a physician might suggest that a patient go on blood thinners or simply take a baby aspirin before and during a long trip to avoid DVT. He adds that if you are pregnant, have a history of heart disease, cancer or blood clots, you should always consult with a physician before taking part in long travel.

Categories: When Should I Worry About...
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