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FAQ About COVID-19

Planes Trains and Automobiles: Healthy Travel Part Four

Part four- Preventing traveler’s thrombosis


Traveler’s thrombosis is known in medical terms as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a blood clot restricting circulation usually in the lower extremity. The problem with a DVT is if the blood clot dislodges and travels from the leg to the heart, brain or lungs. It can lead to heart attack, stroke or when it goes to the lungs, it is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE) and restricts breathing. All of these are serious, life threatening conditions.


Risk factors for developing a DVT include:

  1. Dehydration
  2. Age with the risk increasing after 40 years old
  3. Obesity (body mass index: BMI greater than 30kg/m2)
  4. Previous DVT (the CDC states that one third of individuals with DVT/ PE will have a reoccurrence within 10 years)
  5. Family history of blood clots
  6. Varicose veins
  7. Recent surgery or injury (within the last three months)
  8. Pregnancy
  9. Oral contraception
  10. Hormone replacement therapy
  11. Cardio-respiratory disease
  12. Active cancer or recent cancer treatment
  13. Other chronic illness

**anyone with three or more of these risk factors should consult their doctor about preventative measures prior to long haul flight of 4hours or greater


Recognize the symptoms

Immediate treatment is always preferred. However, about half of the people with a DVT have no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms include

  1. Swelling in the leg or arm
  2. Pain and tenderness, you cannot explain
  3. Skin warm to the touch
  4. Redness to the skin

**If you have these symptoms contact your doctor as soon as possible.


The following are signs of a pulmonary embolism. If you have any of these symptoms seek immediate medical attention.

  1. Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  2. Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
  3. Chest pain or discomfort that often worsens with deep breathing or coughing
  4. Coughing up blood
  5. Anxiety, light headiness, or fainting


Preventive measures

Prevention is always preferred. The following are steps you can take to decrease the risk of DVT.

  1. Regular stretching and mobility exercise and when possible walk around the cabin during flight.
  2. Stay hydrated (drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages) The rule of thumb is drink enough fluids to keep your urine pale in color.
  3. Taking a low dose aspirin tablet (75mg) for its anti-adhesive effects on blood platelets. Be sure to talk to your doctor before adding aspirin with any other medications.
  4. Use graded compression stockings
  5. Wear loose fitting clothing and avoid crossing your legs to reduce compression on the veins.


For online video link and handout of Exercises You Can Do in your seat: call our office 858-675-1133 and ask for your airplane, seated exercises to be e-mailed directly to you.



References for DVT information:

Gavish I, Brenner B. Air travel and the risk of thromboembolism. Intern Emerg Med 2011 Apr;6(2):113-6.