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How to Reduce The Risk of a Blood Clot on Prolonged Flights

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Blood clots can develop in the legs during hours of sitting in a plane, train, or automobile, a condition called deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can be painful, and even deadly reports the Harvard Women's Health Watch.

If a blood clot grows in a leg vein, it can interfere with circulation in the leg, causing pain and #swelling.

Sometimes a small piece of the clot breaks off and travels to another part of the body - this tiny traveler is known as an embolus.

A pulmonary embolus - a clot that lodges in the lungs - can block the flow of oxygen to the body, leading to #fatigue, #breathlessness, chest pain, and even death.

"It usually takes more than a single factor for DVT to develop", says Dr. Julianne Stoughton, a vascular surgeon at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Age is one factor; the chance of developing a blood clot begins to increase after age 40 and continues to rise throughout life. Inactivity imposed by travel is another. Taking a #medication that promotes blood #clotting, as well as conditions like factor V Leiden mutation, cancer, and heart disease, also increases the risk.

Several #preventive #measures can reduce the risk of developing a blood clot when you're on the road or in the air:


Compression stockings are now virtually indistinguishable from the opaque hose and come in a variety of colors. Made from an elastic material, they exert more pressure at the ankle than at the calf. This helps send blood back up through the veins to the heart.


Take a break every hour. When on a plane, bus, or train, walk the aisles; when driving, stop at a rest area. While seated, practice tracing the letters of the alphabet in the air with one foot, then the other, using the big toe as a "pen point."


Don't take a sleeping pill. A long nap in a seated position lets the blood pool in the legs.


Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating. Staying hydrated may mean more bathroom visits, but getting up and #walking down the aisle keeps blood circulating.


It's less likely to restrict #blood flow.


There is some evidence that taking a baby aspirin before a trip can prevent blood clots.

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