With an estimated 206.2 million travellers expected to fly globally between June and August of 2012, the incidence of travel- related Deep Vein Thromboses (DVTs) may affect as many as 1 million people. But this silent killer can also occur during long, train, car and bus rides, especially those lasting over 8-10 hours. Female passengers taking contraceptives, smokers, people over 60, cancer patients and the severely obese are all at higher risk for DVTs and should take extra precautions.
If you are a traveling therapist, or just getting ready for a well-deserved vacation, we have accumulated some suggestions for reducing your risk of DVTs, no matter what your means of transportation:
- Avoid airplane window seats whenever possible. Window seat passengers have a twofold risk of DVTs since they are less likely to move about the cabin to avoid climbing over their fellow passengers.
- Walk the aisles. Take a leisurely stroll around the plane once every hour, provided it is safe to do. Make frequent stops to stretch legs when driving.
- Exercise your calf and foot muscles while seated. Every half hour stretch legs, toes and rotate ankles to increase circulation.
- Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Dehydration caused by the dry air in airplane cabins appears to thicken the blood leading to DVTs forming in the extremities. Caffeine and alcohol intake contribute to dehydration, but drinking one or two glasses of water every hour can offset this.
- Wear compression stockings while traveling. Purchase graduated compression stockings that prevent pooling of blood in the calves while seated. Ask your pharmacist to select the correct type. Remember that these do not replace the exercise suggested above.
- Don’t take sleeping pills or sleep for long periods of time. Sleep aids and deep sleep patterns render the body immobile for extended periods of time. It is less restful but wiser to take short “cat naps” during long flights and long car rides.
Studies are inconclusive about the efficacy of starting an aspirin regimen prior to traveling, so we recommend you consult your doctor. Recognizing the signs of a DVT and getting immediate treatment is essential to heading off potentially fatal pulmonary embolisms. In legs these include: swelling; warm,red/discolored skin; pain/tenderness; visible surface veins and limb fatigue. These signs must be taken seriously, but otherwise the common sense measures described above will lower your risk for this syndrome.
Centra Healthcare Solutions wishes you a safe and healthy summer, and if you are looking to incorporate travel into your therapy career, contact us at 800 535 0076 and let us place you in the pilot/driver’s seat.