Doctors: Holiday travelers at risk for deadly blood clots

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - This week, many of us will hop in the car or on a plane to make the long trip home to visit our loved ones.

But many may not realize that being immobile for such long periods of time could put you at risk for a potentially deadly condition.  Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) affects nearly two million Americans.

Dr. Alan Lumsden is the chief of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center.

"We've all had the experience of you go on an airplane, you take your shoes off and at the end of the flight, you can't get your shoes back on because gravity acts on blood and it tends to pool down in your legs when you don't move the muscles in your calf," Dr. Lumsden told Local 2.

Dr. Lumsden added that as the blood pools, clots can form.

"These blood clots in your leg can be this long and this big around, so these are significant," Dr. Lumsden explained. "The initial thing we worry about is that they can break off, travel through your heart, into your lungs and that's what we refer to as a pulmonary embolism."

You may remember that's what led to the death of NBC reporter David Bloom who was covering the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

Symptoms of DVT can include pain, tenderness, swelling, redness and increased warmth in one leg.

The condition can be treated with blood thinners, if medical attention is sought quickly.

There are simple ways to avoid DVT by exercising the calves every hour or two for a few minutes at a time.

"That can either be pulling up and pointing your toes down or making circles with your toe and basically what that's inducing you to do is contract your calf muscles and empty the blood out of there," said Dr. Lumsden.

You may wonder about those compression stockings that are out there on the market. Doctors say they can be very effective in preventing the blood from pooling in the legs during travel, further reducing your risk.

Some other suggestions to keep DVT at bay include drinking plenty of water or juice, avoiding alcohol and eating light meals when traveling long distances.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.