As families pile into cars heading south for Turkey Day, or board airplanes toward the opposite coast, traveling safely is the priority. Inclement weather and drunk drivers are not the only hazards to worry about.
More long-distance trips occur during the Thanksgiving holiday than any other time of year. And, long-distance travel increases health risks, in particular, the risk of blood clots.
Sometimes, they remain in the legs, causing pain and swelling. But, when those clots travel to the lungs, that’s when they can become life-threatening. If large enough, lungs don’t get enough blood flow around the clot and the heart has a hard time pumping against the blockage.
Here are seven tips to keep you safe from blood clots — also known as deep vein thromboses or DVTs — this holiday season.
Know your risk.
Certain factors or conditions increase the risk for developing blood clots. Those include being on birth control pills or the patch, wearing a leg cast or boot, being pregnant, having had recent surgery, actively battling cancer, being a smoker, and obesity. If you fall into these categories, consider shortening your travel time, for example, by flying to Florida instead of driving.
Get moving, and often.
Every 2 hours, get out of the car and walk around. If you’re on a plane or train, walk up and down the aisles to the bathroom. Clots form from blood pooling over a long period of time. So, break up that time.
Work out those calf muscles.
The problematic types of blood clots usually start in the calf. So, while sitting in your seat, flex and extend your feet at the ankle. Stiffen and release those calf muscles. Push up on your tiptoes, lifting your heels, then put your heels back down. Repeat until your legs get tired. Do this in between walking around.
Increase your fluid intake before you start your journey and continue until you reach the destination. But, only non-caffeinated beverages count. Alcohol, soda, caffeinated tea or coffee actually dehydrate by making you urinate more. So, you have to make up for that fluid loss, too. Water, juice, decaffeinated drinks are okay. When your urine is clear or pale yellow, you’ve met the goal.
Take a baby aspirin.
An aspirin a day is good for the heart. But, in certain scenarios, experts debate whether it can also stave off blood clots. To get full affect, start taking it a few days before and the day of the trip.
Cut down on smoking.
Smoking, especially while on birth control, raises the risk of forming clots.
Plan your route (to avoid traffic).
A 3-hour trip from Granny’s can easily turn into a 6-hour ordeal along a heavily trafficked route. Even though the distance alone wouldn’t raise the risk of blood clots, doubling the amount of time in the car can. Try to pick less trafficked times, or use side roads. If it’s unavoidable, don’t forget to get out every 2 hours.