Travel Tips for Preventing Blood Clots

As the end of the semester approaches, many Howard University students will be traveling across the country and across the globe. With long distance travel, whether by road or by air, there are special risks for blood clots in the legs called DVTs (deep vein thrombosis). These clots can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism (PE). These can happen in anyone but may be more common in people with certain risks. The Student Health Center would like to inform students on their risk and how to prevent DVTs.

Am I at risk for DVT?

Almost anyone can have DVT, but people traveling for extended periods of time are at increased risk because of limited movement. It can happen with air or road (bus, train, car) travel.
Most people who develop travel-associated DVT have additional risk factors, including (but not limited to):

  • Obesity
  • Use of estrogen-containing birth control (pills, patches, rings)
  • Personal or family history of blood clots
  • Recent surgery or injury
  • Limited mobility

Steps to DVT prevention

  • Get up occasionally and walk around
  • Exercise your calf muscles while you’re sitting by the following actions:
    • Raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor
    • Raising and lowering your toes while keeping your heels on the floor
    • Tightening and releasing your leg muscles

DVT symptoms

  • Swelling, pain or tenderness in your leg
  • Redness and increased warmth in the skin of the leg

Pulmonary embolism (PE) symptoms

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Faster than normal heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Cough (which may have bloody sputum)

Special tests are needed to diagnose DVT or PE, but if you have any of the symptoms (especially if associated with long-distance travel and if you have risk factors as above), seek medical care immediately. Note that the student health insurance plan (www.uhcsr.com/howard) will provide coverage to be seen nationwide, and does also offer global health coverage. Check the plan brochure for more specific details.

For more details on DVT and PE, check out the CDC’s Travelers’ Health page, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/dvt#