How to protect yourself from blood clots during business travel
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
How much do you know about deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE)? Both of these conditions can result if you develop a blood clot — a risk for business travelers who sit for long periods on a plane, train, or in a car.
The CDC reports that as many as 900,000 Americans will suffer a blood clot this year. Also according to the CDC, DVT can form in your legs during travel because you are sitting still in a confined space for long periods of time — specifically, four hours or more.
Life-threatening problems can occur when a part of the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, becoming a PE, which can cause a fatal blockage.
What other essential information do you need to know about protecting yourself from clots while you travel?
Wear compression stockings.
You probably already know that both DVTs and PEs can be caused by immobility of your legs, pregnancy, or cancer. But did you know that your height can also figure in to your risk for clots?
The American Heart Association says that those around 6 feet are at the highest risk, while those under 5-foot-1 have a lower DVT/PE predisposition. This is probably because taller people have longer leg veins and therefore more surface space where clots can form. Additionally, the gravitational pressure of a longer leg is more likely to slow or stop blood flow there.
Ask your doctor if wearing compression stockings when you fly — available at medical supply stores and drug stores — is a good preventative option for you.
Be smart about medication.
Recent research found that common anti-allergy drugs (like hay fever meds) might be able to boost the cells in your body that protect you from a DVT in your leg. Although more research needs to be done before doctors will prescribe these meds as a travel precaution, you should always ask your doctor if any medication you're on increases your chance of blood clots during travel. Also, make sure you take any blood thinners you have been prescribed prior to boarding for your journey.
Get up and walk around frequently.
Do this at least every 2-3 hours if you're on a plane, train or bus, and stop to walk around if traveling by car. Make a habit of getting up from your chair at work during the day, too.
Try this exercise recommended by the CDC while sitting:
- Raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor.
- Raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor.
- Tighten and release your leg muscles.
Drink plenty of water.
Dehydration can contribute to the formation of clots, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Watch for these symptoms, the Mayo Clinic also advises:
- Coughing up blood
- A fast heartbeat
- Difficult or painful breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- Pain extending to your shoulder, arm, back or jaw
- Sudden weakness or numbness of your face, arm or leg
- Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech (aphasia)
- Sudden changes in your vision
Get immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur. Call your doctor right away if you develop these signs or symptoms in an area on an arm or leg:
Play it safe — if something doesn't feel right, get it checked out, even if you're on the road. A little common sense and proactive behavior can save your life.
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