Staying Healthy While Traveling
By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD – The upcoming Thanksgiving and holiday season is one of the most heavily vacation trafficked periods of the year, when millions of people “take to the skies and roads” , visiting friends and relatives. Unfortunately, for 3-5% (yes, that is 3-5%) of the people who get off of airplanes, buses, trains or auto transport will develop blood clots, often not detected until many weeks after their trip.
As American health care consumers, we know in today’s environment we must be pro-active and take control of our health through health information and prevention. Staying healthy while traveling is one very important preventative situation that we can all be more aware of to circumvent an unwanted health crisis.
Three years ago, the World Health Organization published the WRIGHT report (WHO Research Into Global Hazards of Travel) which identified the extent of the problem and who was at risk. The report identified the population most at risk are females, over 40 years of age, with a prior history of deep vein thrombosis.
Others at risk include older travelers, obese travelers, pregnant women, anyone with varicose veins or a prior history of venous thrombosis, women taking birth control pills or estrogen, travelers with a history of a major operation, cancer, heart failure, highly trained athletes, and those with recent surgery or injury.
In spite of the evidence, however, there are still airlines in denial over the problem as many fear increased litigation. One major US airline has a published statement on its websites as a response to concerned travels that reads: “There is no epidemiological evidence that air travel causes blood clots.”
However, published experts would re-word that statement to read: “It would be more accurate to say, “Every credible scientific study of the subject has found that air travel [and other forms of confined travel] cause blood clots, including all of the most recent large sophisticated studies.”
What can you do to prevent blood clots?
1) Do not be immobile for more than 1 hour when traveling by air or in confined transportation
2) Dress in loose-fitting clothes and shoes. No socks or garments should have banded constriction.
3) Stay well hydrated, but avoid alcohol.
4) Exercise your legs and feet every chance you can (e.g. every 20 minutes).
5) Consider fitted, compression stockings – compression of 20 mm. Hg or more is best.
6) It is not a guarantee that taking aspirin to avoid thrombosis will work but as it prevents platelet clumping which causes clots, if you are at risk, it seems reasonable to take aspirin daily, starting a day before departure and continuing for a day after the flight terminates.
7) Sit in an aisle seat – you will have more room and it is easier to stand up and move around the plane, bus or train.
Hope this helps. For more information search for “blood clots and travel”. There is an enormous amount of information on the subject and if you are getting ready for that big trip, having this information should be part of your “packing”.