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Healthy Veins in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Originally published in the November 2016 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

Holidays tend to mean travel for many people, whether by car, airplane, or train, which means lots of sitting.  To learn about ways to reduce the chances of blood clots during the holidays, we talked with Karen Pittman, of Vein911, about ways to keep our veins healthy during all the traveling and sitting.  She shared answers to some common questions.

Vein 911: Dr. Chris Pittman and family

1)  If I’m traveling for the holidays, do I really need to worry about my veins? 

If you’re going to be sitting for a long period of time, the circulation in your legs will be limited and this increases your risk of a blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Symptoms of a DVT include leg pain or tenderness, swelling, redness and increased warmth in the leg.

DVT starts in the leg and the clot can break off and travel through the blood stream and lodge in the lungs. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE) and can cause chest pain, shortness of breath and death. Nearly 1 million Americans are affected by DVT/PE each year and nearly 100,000 die of DVT/PE.

Your level of risk depends on the duration of travel as well as on whether you have any other risks for blood clots. Most people who develop travel-associated blood clots have one or more other risks for blood clots, such as:

  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • Varicose veins
  • Limited mobility
  • Recent surgery or injury
  • Pregnancy and the postpartum period
  • Use of estrogen-containing contraceptives
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Active cancer or recent cancer treatment
  • Previous blood clot or a family history of blood clots

2)  What are your top tips for healthy legs as we head into the holiday season?

If you are traveling and sitting for many hours in a car or airplane here are a few things you can do:

  • Walk around every 2-3 hours.
  • Try not to sleep more than four hours at a time.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.

Exercise your legs while you’re sitting by:

  • 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

Wearing a good quality pair of graduated compression hose are an excellent prevention measure! Compression hose help prevent clots from forming by accelerating blood flow in your deep veins.

All compression hose are not equal. There are many compression hose on the market but most are not high quality graduated compression hose. Quality, graduated compression hose should be measured and fitted to your legs. Graduated compression hose will make your legs feel terrific and also help you when you expect to be on your feet all day.

3)  I know compression hose can help, but they are just not attractive. 

Compression hose have come a long way from the thick, ugly beige hose that most of us think of when we hear the words “compression hose.”  There are several companies that make very attractive hose that are sheer or come in a variety of colors and patterns. Medical grade graduated compression hose come in panty hose, thigh-high and knee high styles.


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