Flying Clot Free
By Amy Surdam, FNP
“The love of family, friendships that span the globe, the discussions of our new President, and social media are all bridges between our world and theirs.”
My husband and I recently went to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for a beautiful, Arabic wedding. The Middle East is such a different world than Wyoming. The food, the currency, bidets, and covered women are just a few examples of those differences. However, in many ways, we are very similar. The love of family, friendships that span the globe, the discussions of our new President, and social media are all bridges between our world and theirs.
However, one thing about this trip was certain, the flight to halfway around the world is long…14 hours to be exact. Fourteen hours of intermittent sleep, babies fussing, reading books uninterrupted, and movies.
As health care providers, my husband and I were sure to take all of the necessary measures to prevent developing blood clots in our legs.
A blood clot forms when red blood cells (RBC’s) clump together and can be very dangerous. If you develop a blood clot in a large vein (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) it can stop blood flow to the remainder of the extremity or even dislodge and travel to the lung (pulmonary embolism or PE) and cause death.
People develop blood clots for basically two reasons. First, some people are more predisposed than others based on genetics. The second reason people develop a blood clot is because they are sedentary and their blood stops flowing as readily as it should. This lack of flow allows ample opportunity for the RBC’s to clump together. Recent injury, surgery, or long flights are all situations where you might be more sedentary and at a higher risk for developing a blood clot.
The next time you are on a long flight or recovering from surgery, be sure to remember these key tips to help prevent a blood clot.
1. Wear compression socks. Compression socks keep the blood from pooling in your lower legs by placing pressure on the extremities. Ladies, imagine the tightest panty hose you can imagine and then some. You can purchase compression socks (ted hose) at your local pharmacy or online.
2. Get up and stretch your legs every few hours. Standing up to use the bathroom or even just to stretch a bit will help keep your blood flowing. If you can’t stand, be sure to do seated exercises such as ankle rolls and flexing and extending your calves.
3. Don’t confuse bruising with blood clots. We develop blood clots all of the time in small veins (phlebitis) and when we have a bruise (ecchymosis). These are less serious and generally will heal on their own with time. Sometimes when we fly, these bruises can become much worse because you are sedentary. The key difference in a bruise and a DVT is location. Typically DVT’s are on the back of your leg, not the front, and will be hot, red, and painful to the touch. However, if you aren’t sure, it is better to be examined right away. That way if you have a blood clot treatment (anticoagulants) can be started right away.
4. Watch for any concerns after you land. Blood clots can take up to a few days to really show themselves. Be mindful of your body after a long flight or during recovery. If at any time you think you might have a blood clot, don’t rub it and be sure to be seen as soon as possible.
At Stitches Acute Care Center we are happy to evaluate you for this concern and order the proper screening tests.
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