Spring has officially arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere or has it. A couple who are friends have returned to their home on the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan after a lengthy vacation traveling the nice warm southern United States and are questioning their decision to return at this time. They shared on Facebook that they woke up to snow on the deck, the bay is still frozen and it was 35 degrees. For the rest of us the spring time weather like here in Amarillo, Texas gives us the travel bug.
If you are flying, airport security will be looking out for your safe flight by checking for bombs in shoes, explosives in hats, and (oh, of course) the .357 magnum that someone “forgot” to take out of their carry on bag. But what are you doing to make sure you arrive at your destination safely and are not attacked by enemies of a differ kind, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or the even more deadly Pulmonary Embolism (PA). Either one can ruin a wonderful vacation. It is not just flying that can create these enemies… any travel by car, bus, or train that lasts 5 hours or longer is a candidate for creating these vacation ruining enemies.
Air travel has been put on the most wanted poster more times because you are sandwiched between two other travelers, you are sitting, and sitting, and sitting in very dry, low-pressure air with lower than normal oxygen levels. Your legs are bent in the same position for hours and the seat you are sitting in for your safety is constructed with a fairly rigid metal frame which is cutting into the back of your legs compressing the popliteal vein and slowing down the blood returning to your heart. It is at this point that you become a great candidate for a DVT. As I said, you do not have to be on a plane for this to occur…all you have to do is travel for long distances in the same position. Sitting can be dangerous for your health!
Lets make your journey one you remember because of the wonderful time you have and not because you encountered your enemies DVT and PA. Begin by choosing support socks (knee high will usually be appropriate) that will aid in returning the blood in your lower extremity back to your heart. If you have no swelling in your legs, no predisposition for developing a DVT then a 15-20mmHg compression will probably be adequate.
Following is a list of factors that increase the risk of developing DVT:
Injury to a vein, often caused by:
- Severe muscle injury
- Major surgery (especially of the abdomen, pelvis, hip, or legs)
Slow blood flow, often caused by:
- Confinement to bed (possibly due to a medical condition or after surgery)
- Limited movement (a cast on an extremity to help heal a injured bone)
- Sitting for a long time, especially with crossed legs
- Sedate lifestyle
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy, sometimes used after menopause
- Pregnancy, for up to 6 weeks after giving birth
Certain Chronic medical illnesses:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Cancer and its treatment
- Inflammatory bowl disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
Other facts that increase the risk of DVT include:
- Previous DVT or PE
- Family history of DVT or PE
- Age (risk increases as age increases)
- A catheter located in a central vein
- Inherited clotting disorders
- Varicose veins
If you swell when you are not traveling or are predisposed to developing a DVT, you should choose a 20-30mmHg compression or discuss this with your physician. It is up to you to be proactive to make sure your legs arrive safely.
Here’s to a wonderful journey,
PS: Next week things you can do when you travel that can save your life.