At risk of DVT? – you can still enjoy travel!
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is caused by blood clots forming, normally in the larger veins of the leg. During daily activity, our calf muscles contract as we move around. This helps to keep our blood flowing and works to prevent clots from forming. Regular activity is particularly important for anyone with at risk of DVT as periods of inactivity can increase their chances of developing another clot. For this reason the limited space on planes, trains and buses can make travelling particularly challenging.
The good news is that a DVT diagnosis doesn’t have to spell the end of your holiday plans. If you are travelling by car or train, there will be plenty of opportunities to stop along the way and stretch your legs. The risk of developing a blood clot increases the longer you are sitting still, so it is important to make sure you take the time to get out of the vehicle frequently, even if this means the journey takes a little longer than it normally should.
Buses and planes are a little more problematic. If you are unable to get up and walk around, there are lots of exercises you can do in your seat. Pretend you are driving and flex your feet at the ankle as though you are operating the pedals. Repetitions are key and will help to keep your muscles flexed and your blood circulating.
Flying is the form of travel most often associated with the risk of DVT. Studies have shown that the risk of thrombosis (blood clotting) for those on long haul flights (over 4 hours) is double that of passengers on shorter flights. Travelling by plane also presents another risk since airline seats in particular have been found to put pressure on the back of your knee. This is where the popliteal vein is, and pressure on this spot can reduce circulation in your leg and increase the chance of a blood clot forming. Take a bag with you that you can place in the footwell and rest your feet on this. Elevating your legs and lifting the pressure on this vein will help to increase your circulation.
Compression stockings are another travel staple for those with a history of DVT. Tight at the ankles, they exert a graduated pressure on your calf that helps to reduce swelling and increase circulation. Put them on before you travel and leave them on the entire length of your journey for maximum benefit.
Holidaying on Warfarin
If you are taking Warfarin because you are at risk of DVT, then it is important that you don’t break your routine while you’re on holiday. Visit your doctor before you leave and make sure your INR and dose are in the correct range. Your doctor may suggest that you get your INR checked while you are away, particularly if you have just started taking Warfarin or are not quite in your target range.
Routines are made to be broken on holiday, but you should take your Warfarin at the same time every day. Setting an alarm or a reminder on your phone is the easiest way to ensure you keep to a routine and your INR stays stable. It is also a good idea to take more than enough medication and pack it in your hand luggage, just in case your hold luggage gets delayed or misplaced.
Look after yourself while you are on holiday. Avoid activities that put you at risk of injury or a fall and always pack dressings just in case you cut yourself. Seek medical attention if you do have an accident, even if you can’t spot any bruising or bleeding. Present your medicines to any doctors you see while you are on holiday and make an appointment to see your own GP when you get home if you are prescribed anything new while you're away.
Stick to these few simple guidelines and all you will have to worry about is enjoying your break!