Blood Clots and Travel

Sitting for long periods of time with limited mobility, or the inability to move, is a risk factor for dangerous blood clots. If you are sitting in a car, plane, bus, or train for long periods of time, you could be at risk for a blood clot. The good news is, you can take steps to protect yourself, reduce your risk for blood clots, and still enjoy travel!

If you have experienced a blood clot, it can be scary to think about traveling. Most people, however, can and do travel again after they start to feel better and once they have a treatment plan that works for them. Here are my top trips to take care of yourself and enjoy travel after a blood clot:

Traveling by airplane can increase a person’s risk for blood clots, mostly due to sitting in a confined space with limited movement for long periods of time (also known as long-haul flights). Here are ways to prevent blood clots if you’re taking a flight:

  • Get an aisle seat, or bulkhead seat (in front of the main cabin where there is usually more legroom), or upgrade to a seat with extended legroom. If you’re comfortable with the responsibilities in the event of a flight emergency, Emergency Exit row seats also tend to have more legroom. 
  • When you get to your flight gate, ask the airline attendant if you can board early. Some airlines offer pre-boarding, either for a fee or at no cost. For me, this helps to relieve anxiety and ensures I can get settled in my seat, or secure an aisle seat before everyone else gets on the plane if it is an airline with unassigned seats.  
  • Take your medications on board with you. Here are the TSA Guidelines for flying with injections (yes, you can take them on board with you).
  • Take your medication in prescription bottles. If you do not have them in prescription bottles, take a printed list of your medications from the pharmacy with you. Your pharmacy will provide you with this list if you ask for it. I carry a list like this with me every time I go on a trip away from home. 
  • Get up frequently on your flight (use the restroom the farthest away from you, for example), or if you cannot get up, do leg exercises (ankle rolls, calf pumps) in your seat. Flights greater than four hours (nonstop) pose the highest risk for blood clots. You should aim to get up every 2-3 hours on your flight.
  • Hydrate with water (avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine)
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are not too tight, and ask your doctor if you would benefit from wearing compression stockings or “flight socks” as they are sometimes called.

Here is more information to help keep you safe and stress-free on your next adventure: