Monday, April 2, 2012

Travel health - Long Distance Traveling & Deep Vein Thrombosis

CDC / Long-distance travelers : Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Announcement: March 29, 2012

Some long-distance travelers are at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a large vein. Part of a clot may break off and travel to the lungs, causing a PE, which can be fatal
Protect yourself by knowing your risk and taking steps to prevent DVT.

Almost anyone can have DVT. People traveling for extended periods of time may be at increased risk for DVT because they have limited movement. The increased risk is usually associated with air travel, but DVT can also form during travel by bus, train, or car.
Most people who develop travel-associated DVT have additional risk factors, including:
  • A previous blood clot
  • Known clotting disorder
  • Recent surgery or injury
  • Use of estrogen-containing birth control or hormone replacement therapy
  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • Active cancer (or undergoing chemotherapy)
  • Limited mobility
Steps to DVT Prevention
You can take steps to help prevent DVT. For long distance travelers, these steps include
  • Getting up occasionally and walking around.
  • Exercising your calf muscles and stretching your legs while you're sitting. Try these exercises next time you travel:
    • Raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor.
    • Raising and lowering your toes while keeping your heels on the floor.
    • Tightening and releasing your leg muscles.
  • Selecting an aisle seat when possible.
For long-distance travelers with additional risk factors for DVT, talk to your doctor about taking extra precautions such as
  • Wearing properly fitted medical compression stockings.
  • Taking medication before departure to prevent DVT.
Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
It is helpful to know the signs and symptoms in the event that you develop DVT or PE. If you have symptoms of DVT call a doctor right away. If you have symptoms of PE you should seek immediate medical care from a doctor or the emergency department. Early detection and treatment can prevent death or complications.
DVT Symptoms
  • Swelling, pain, or tenderness in the affected limb (usually the leg)
  • Redness and increased warmth of the skin in the affected limb
PE Symptoms
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Faster than normal heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Cough (which may be bloody)
  • Lightheadedness or fainting

My Take.....
One of close relatives was a consultant for many Western automotive manufacturers, and he traveled extensively on long hop flights. He had a severe stroke secondary to a DVT and died in Germany. 
Given the increasing number of long distance travelers from India, the risk of this condition cannot be overstated. Keeping your self well hydrated, exercising regularly (just walking will suffice), and using stockings/ medicines (if prescribed) can substantially lower the risk of DVT and embolism in most individuals.

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