It’s always fun to get away, but there’s a scary downside of traveling: Sitting still for an extended period of time, as you’re forced to do on a long flight, increases your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot called deep vein thrombosis. DVT can be life-threatening, so before your next trip, watch the video above to find out everything you need to know about preventing it.
For starters, you should know that DVT usually occurs in a vein in the legs. DVT can lead to pain and swelling in the leg, particularly around the calf muscle. While this can definitely be uncomfortable, DVT becomes potentially fatal when that clot breaks off from the vein in a person’s leg and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs. If the clot blocks blood flow in the lungs it’s called a pulmonary embolism, which means blood and oxygen aren’t reaching the rest of the body.
That sounds super-scary, but thankfully DVT is treatable when it’s caught early. You should notify your doctor as soon as you can—or head straight to the emergency room—if you notice pain and swelling in one leg. Treatment usually involves medications called blood thinners. They can help prevent clots from getting any bigger, and reduce your risk of future clots. If you have a more serious clot, doctors may prescribe medications known as clot busters to break it up.
Of course, it’s best to avoid blood clots altogether. Regular exercise, sticking to a healthy weight, and getting up to move around when you’re stuck sitting for a while can all help reduce your risk of clots. Keep in mind that if you’re pregnant, you smoke, or you’re taking certain medications, including birth control pills, you have a higher risk of blood clots to begin with. Watch the video above for more about the risk factors for DVT, and ways to stay safe.