Did you know that you can prevent DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, (blood clot in a vein) even on long travel days? I hadn’t given DVTs (deep vein thromboses) much thought until our recent trip back to Missouri from southern Florida. Our 1,200-mile-long trip took much longer than we’d expected. We experienced road work delays and heavy rainstorms that frequently forced us off the road for a while. We had to take a detour at one point and then sat in traffic for several hours because of an accident on the road up ahead. All of this may have been a perfect setup for DVTs, but we knew what to do to prevent them. As an RVer, you should know how to prevent DVTs, too!
Just what is a DVT?
Deep vein thrombosis is a very dangerous condition. DVTs are blood clots that form deep within a vein. Many times DVTs form in the leg, but these clots can also present in an arm or within the stomach. The problem with a DVT is that the clot or a part of the clot can break free from the vein. It can travel through your bloodstream into the lungs, where it forms a pulmonary embolism—a life-threatening situation.
How do you know if you may have a DVT? Here are three warning signs:
- Pain and swelling at the site (sometimes accompanied with redness)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest
Who is at risk?
Many RVers are at risk of developing DVTs. That’s because on travel days we may spend long hours sitting in our trucks, diesel pushers, or other vehicles as we move to our next campsite. Here are some additional reasons you may be at risk:
- You are overweight
- You are more than 60 years old
- You’ve previously had a DVT
- You have varicose veins
- You have cancer or heart failure
- You’re a smoker
- You take a contraceptive pill or HRT
- You have a family history of DVTs or PE (pulmonary embolism)
In addition, if you sit in one position for an extended period of time or become dehydrated, your risk may increase. Even if you do not have any of the aforementioned risk factors, a DVT may still develop. With that said, you can understand why it’s important to know how to prevent DVTs.
How to prevent DVTs on travel days
- Plan your RV travel days to include several stops.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing. (Exception: Compression hosiery is designed to enhance blood flow.)
- Get out of the vehicle often and walk around. Stretch arms and legs, too.
- Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol.
- Do not cross your legs (restricting blood flow) while traveling in your RV.
- While sitting/traveling, flex your feet (point toes up, relax, repeat) and rotate your ankles often (clockwise then counter-clockwise). If space permits, raise your knee to your chest. Hold and release. Repeat for the other leg.
- Frequently “pump” your legs up and down to increase blood flow. (Even simply raising your heels off the floor as high as you can and then releasing them will help.)
My husband and I like to stop every hour or so, and plan our travel routes accordingly. This allows us to walk around, stretch, and rehydrate often. Once you know about the potential health risks and ways to prevent DVTs, you can adjust your travel routines accordingly.
Stay safe (and healthy) out there, everyone!