Knowing this Important Information Before you Leave on a Trip Can Help Save Your Life

Christmas is just around the corner and with the Yuletide season comes shopping and visiting friends and family. Some of you may be traveling hours and hours before arriving at your holiday destination.  If you’re ready to endure the long flights, the lack of leg room, the cramped plane, bus and train seats, and well, the heavy travel expense just to spend the holidays with loved ones, that’s great. But you may want to remember some key travel tips that can help you avoid medical problems or even worse during the holiday season.

bloodclotinveinsTraveling during the holidays can be expensive; however, monetary expenses are not the only kind of costs you should be concerned about. An important consideration is how the travel may affect your health. Traveling by bus, train or plane for more than a few hours can actually be quite dangerous. These periods of inactivity in confined quarters can cause medical problems in even the healthiest of individuals. You often have to stay in one position in cramped places, hardly able to move your hands and feet. This can lead to a condition known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Deep Vein Thrombosis is often under diagnosed and is a preventable medical condition DVT’s can have severe medical consequences causing injury, disability and even death.

Quick Deep Vein Thrombosis Stats:

· More than 2 million Americans are Affected Each Year

· This results in up to 600,000 hospitalizations

· 300,000 Americans will die each year in the United States from a complication of DVT called a Pulmonary Embolism (PE).

· This kills more Americans than Breast Cancer and Aids combined

DVT occurs when circulation to one’s extremities, normally the legs and thighs, is lessened and blood clots form in the deep veins. This brings pain and swelling but can also be a potentially dangerous condition. Sometimes clots may even develop in the arm. In worst cases, DVT can lead to embolisms, when parts of the clots break off and block arteries in the heart, lungs or brain. This can cause death within hours.

The best way to treat DVT is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here’s a few simple steps that can help you avoid having a DVT.

  • Maintain circulation in your legs and feet: one can do exercises without standing up, especially if travel conditions prevent this. Every 15 minutes, one should try to straighten the legs, do rotation exercises for the calves, bend the knees and press the balls of your feet against the floor. Pretend you are pushing down on the gas pedal with your foot on the ground,  and then raise your toes up in the air with your heels staying on the floor. Do this several times each hour.  If you are already at risk for DVT, your doctor might advise you to get a prescription for medical compression stockings which helps maintain circulation as well.
  • Walk around: if the plane, bus or train permits it, one should try walking down the aisle every hour or so.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes or wearing items that restrict the movement of blood in your extremities
  • Avoid alcohol: Travelers often drown themselves in alcohol so they can sleep for the entire trip. Aside from the headache this is sure to bring when you get off, this is not advisable as it prevents you from stretching and exercising as well as causing dehydration.
  • Don’t smoke: smoking causes veins to shrink, which limits the blood flow through your vessels
  • Drink lots of liquids: An Electrolyte solution is best, at least one cup per hour, next best is plain water, and last, you may also drink juices to avoid dehydration while traveling. The bathroom trips can help you maintain circulation as well. Since electrolyte drinks are not served by the airlines, you will have to bring your own. A convenient way to do this is to purchase the little packets of electrolyte solutions that you can mix with water and bring these with you when you travel. At least one cup *8 ounces of liquid per hour is recommended and an easy way to remember to do this is to drink your liquids every hour on the hour. Ask for bottled water on the flight to mix with your electrolyte solution. It is much cleaner than the tap water and therefore much safer for you.
  • Don’t sleep on the flight: unless you have someone who can awaken you regularly so that you can perform your stretching and leg exercises.
  • It is preferable to have your legs at the same level as your heart: if you must lie down during travel.

 

Although you may have been told that water is the best beverage to consume while traveling, there have been some who will disagree with that advice and encourage travelers to drink an electrolyte solution instead. A study conducted in Japan by Japanese researcher Hamada et al, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that subjects who drank one cup of water per hour during a nine- hour flight experienced increased blood viscosity. Interestingly the study found that those who drank an electrolyte fluid (similar to a good quality sports drink) in the same manner, had no increase in blood viscosity and no increase in urinary output. Hamada used an electrolyte drink containing 110 mg (per 8 oz. cup) of sodium and 30 mg of potassium (JAMA, February 20, 2002, pp. 844-45).

One should always to try to offset extended periods of inactivity with exercise whether it be caused by traveling, hospitalization or an everyday case of couch potato syndrome. Good and proper circulation ensures that our blood is able to reach all the organs and parts of the body, making sure nutrients and oxygen gets delivered. Circulatory problems, even those that initially appear mild can lead to lethal complications. So for frequent travelers out there, make sure you keep those feet and legs happy and exercised. Happy holidays!