Skip navigation

man traveling on a plane

What are blood clots?

Blood clots—or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—can develop when traveling for more than four hours on a plane, in a car or on a train when your legs are not moving for long periods. The likelihood of developing a blood clot increases the longer you sit without moving your legs.

A blood clot will often dissolve into your body without you knowing it occurred. However, a blood clot can also break off and travel to your lungs, blocking blood flow. This blockage, known as a pulmonary embolism (PE), can be fatal.


What are the symptoms of blood clots?

Not all people with DVT will experience symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Skin feeling warm
  • Unusual red skin color
  • Swelling in the leg or arm
  • Unexplained pain or tenderness

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain that worsens when you cough or take a deep breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fainting or lightheadedness
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing

Immediately seek emergency medical attention if you are showing symptoms.


What are the risk factors for blood clots?

You may be at risk for developing a blood clot depending on risk factors, including:

  • Age 40 years or older
  • Obesity
  • Current or recent pregnancy
  • Smoking

Certain health conditions can also increase your risk, including:

  • A catheter in a large vein
  • Blood-thinning medication
  • Cancer treatment
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Limited mobility, either temporary or permanent
  • Personal or family history of blood clots
  • Personal or family history of a genetic clotting disorder
  • Recent injury or surgery within the past 90 days
  • Varicose veins 

Can I reduce my risk for blood clots while traveling?

Talk to your doctor before you travel to address any concerns.

  • Know the signs and symptoms of a blood clot.
  • Know your risk factors, especially if you are on certain medications such as blood thinners.
  • Take breaks from sitting to improve circulation by: 
    • Alternately flexing your ankles and pointing your toes
    • Massaging your legs 
    • Lifting your ankles above your waist, such as by pulling your ankles to your chest 
    • Walking around 
  • Wear compression socks or stockings to improve blood flow and reduce swelling.

Join the In Good Health Newsletter

Get helpful health tips, read inspirational stories, and discover new recipes.

Find Care at Catholic Health

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

Explore More

man, woman, hiking

Staying Fit During Vacation

Stay Hydrated to Keep Healthy

woman drinking water

Understanding Heat Intolerance and Medication

hands, table, medicine
browser error

Browser Error

Diagnosis: Our website no longer supports this web browser.

Treatment: Please use one of the following browsers for the best possible outcome.

  • edge web browser iconEdge
  • chrome web browser iconChrome
  • safari web browser iconSafari
  • firefox web browser iconFirefox