As the Australian summer sets in and the Christmas holiday period approaches, many are preparing to take holidays, often involving long-haul flights or prolonged car trips. While travel offers exciting opportunities, it also brings certain health risks, particularly the threat of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This condition can affect anyone, but it’s particularly important to be aware of the risks when taking long trips. This article explores who is at risk of this condition, why long journeys increase the risk, and what steps you can take to prevent DVT during your holiday travels.
DVT is a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, most commonly in the legs. While it can happen to anyone, certain factors can increase the risk.
Although it can occur at any age, the risk of this problem increases as you get older and a family history of blood clots can increase your susceptibility. Excess body weight can place added pressure on the veins and raise the likelihood that clots will form. Those who smoke are also at a higher risk, as this habit can damage blood vessels.
Women are often at a higher risk of DVT during various stages, particularly during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Certain medications like oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy can also increase the risk of a blood clot.
Family history of DVT can also increase your risk. Seek medical advice if you have a family history, as screening blood tests might be indicated to see if you are also at risk.
Finally, prolonged immobility and extended periods of inactivity can be a significant factor. People taking long flights or car journeys, or those who have recently had surgery and injury treatment will find themselves in this circumstance.
Why does flying increase the risk of DVT?
Long-haul flights can be particularly conducive to DVT risk due to a combination of factors. When a person spends an extended period in a seated position, blood circulation in the legs is reduced. The tight space can make moving around very difficult, and the fluctuations in both cabin pressure and altitude can encourage blood clot formation. This factor is compounded by the low humidity in the cabin, as it leads to mild dehydration making blood more viscous. This is why the importance of keeping hydrated during travelling cannot be overstated.
The good news is that there are several proactive steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of DVT during your holiday travels.
Chief among these is hydration. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight and avoid both alcohol and caffeine. Needing to use the bathroom multiple times during the flight is actually a good sign as dehydration puts you at greater risk for DVT.
Although space is limited, there are simple in-seat exercises that you can perform during the journey to promote circulation. Ankle circles, low-leg lifts and foot pumps can help keep blood flowing well. If there is space in the aisle, walking up and down a couple of times can be helpful. Try to perform short, standing stretches such as calf raises or hamstring stretches as you do this.
Wearing compression stockings is a great way to lower the risk of blood pooling in your leg veins and resulting in a DVT – avoiding this is a priority, as it can quickly become a serious issue that requires vein treatment in Melbourne from a specialist such as a vascular surgeon. Consult with a doctor to select the appropriate compression level and size.
Crossing your legs while sitting can restrict blood flow. Instead, keep your feet flat on the floor and switch your leg position regularly. Opting for an aisle seat if possible is helpful with this as is wearing loose, comfortable clothing that won’t impede circulation.
If you have any risk factors for DVT, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider before flying. They may recommend medications or other measures to reduce your risk. Finally, as you travel, you should stay vigilant for signs of vascular problems. These can include
– Swelling in one leg (usually near the calf or ankle)
– Pain or tenderness in the affected leg
– Warmth and redness over the area
– Veins that appear larger or more prominent
If you experience any of these symptoms during your journey or after arriving at your destination, seek medical attention promptly, as you may require specialist DVT treatment.
While holiday travel is exciting, it’s crucial to prioritise your health and take measures to reduce the threat of blood clots during long flights. If you’re at risk for this condition or you believe you’re experiencing DVT, reach out to Vein Artery Specialist, Dr Adrian Ling. He has years of experience in the field and provides high-quality care to patients struggling with issues like this every day.
Before you head off on holiday, familiarise yourself with the risk factors, remember to stay hydrated and monitor for any symptoms. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy your holiday without worrying about the threat of DVT. A little prevention goes a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey to your destination. Happy holidays!