Prevent DVT when you travel

Stretching on a plane

If you're travelling long distance, there are several ways you can reduce your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Who's at risk of DVT?

Conditions that may increase your risk of DVT on flights of eight hours or more:

  • history of DVT or pulmonary embolism
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • inherited tendency to clot (thrombophilia)
  • recent surgery – pelvic region or legs
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • hormone replacement therapy

Before you travel

If you think you have a risk of DVT, see your GP before you travel. 

Don't leave it until the last minute in case you need to buy medication, compression stockings or anything else for your flight. 

Wearing compression stockings during flights of four hours or more can significantly reduce your risk of DVT, as well as leg swelling (oedema).

The below-knee stockings apply gentle pressure to the ankle to help blood flow. They come in a variety of sizes and there are also different levels of compression. Class 1 stockings (exerting a pressure of 14-17 mmHg at the ankle) are generally sufficient.

It's vital that compression stockings are measured and worn correctly. Ill-fitting stockings could further increase the risk of DVT.

Flight socks are available from pharmacies, airports and many retail outlets. Take advice on size and proper fitting from a pharmacist or another health professional.

During your journey

Tips to reduce your risk of DVT during a long-distance flight, train or car journey:

  • wear loose, comfortable clothes
  • consider flight socks
  • do anti-DVT exercises
  • walk around whenever you can
  • drink plenty of water
  • don't drink alcohol or take sleeping pills

Recovering from DVT

If you had DVT recently, you're probably on medication, such as warfarin, to prevent the formation of blood clots.

If that's the case, then your risk of developing DVT is low and there is no reason why you can't travel, including long haul.

However, if you're still in the recovery phase, you should get the all-clear from your consultant before travelling.

You should also follow the general DVT prevention advice above.

Page last reviewed: 26/05/2016

Next review due: 26/05/2018

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