Thrombosis – a clot in your veins or arteries - can occur while you are travelling. In fact, long-distance travel can increase your risk of developing thrombosis. This risk is higher for those travelling more than 4 hours at a time and remains for the first 2 weeks following travel. While many DVTs are symptomless and cause no further complications, they are potentially life threatening – so being aware of the risk and preventing them is important. It is especially important for people already at risk of developing DVTs to be aware of the added risk of long-distance travel.

Long-distance travel can increase your risk of developing thrombosis by two to three-fold.

Why does travel increase your risk of a DVT?

Cramped seating and long periods of sitting can cause your blood to pool and form clots in your veins. Another reason is that the low oxygen and high-pressure conditions in planes dehydrates your body – which both contribute to the formation of clots.

Who is more at-risk of a DVT during long-distance travel?

Everyone – young, old, fit or unfit - is at risk of thrombosis during travel. Below is a list of factors that can increase your risk of developing a DVT:

  • Oral contraceptive use (especially those containing oestrogen)
  • Obesity
  • Infection
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Recent major surgery
  • Recent trauma – especially in lower limbs
  • Cancer
  • Age – older people have higher risk
  • Pregnancy, or recent pregnancy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Certain conditions and deficiencies
  • Family history of or previous thrombosis
  • Smoking

How can you reduce your risk of a DVT while traveling?

  1. Wear compression stockings
    • Wearing compression stockings can reduce your risk by helping your blood flow from shallow to deep veins, increasing overall blood flow and reducing its ability to clot.
  2. Move around!
    • Clots are more likely to form when you are stationary for a long time, so once every hour or so try to walk around. If you can’t walk around, learn the easy foot exercises below to help increase blood flow through your legs.

  1. Avoid crossing your legs or wearing clothes that are too tight
    • Crossing your legs and tight clothes restrict blood flow and cause your blood to pool where it is more likely to form a clot.
  2. Avoid alcohol
    • Alcohol will cause your body to become even more dehydrated than it already is during a flight. This will make blood clots more likely to form and increase your risk of a DVT.
  3. Stay hydrated!
    • Drinking plenty of water will allow your blood to flow more easily and help to prevent the formation of blood clots

Symptoms of a DVT

The symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Swelling of a limb (usually one leg)
  • Leg pain
  • Red or blue skin discolouration
  • Warmth


If you are concerned about the possibility of developing thrombosis during travel, speak to your doctor about your risks and options.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) FAQs:

What are the chances of developing another thrombosis (deep vein thrombosis or DVT)?

The risk of having a DVT is higher for someone who has already had one. However, this risk is different for everyone – depending on your medical history, family history, and more.

Will my swelling go away?

The swelling may remain for some time. Compression stockings can help to increase blood flow and reduce swelling, as well as help to prevent any complications from the DVT.

What are the warning signs of a DVT or pulmonary embolism (PE)?

See above.

What should I expect after a PE?

After a PE it is common to experience shortness of breath as well as mild pain or pressure – especially during exercise or deep breathing. These symptoms will improve over time, and mild exercise can help you to recover more quickly.

Who should I tell that I am taking blood thinners?

Your doctors, nurses, dentist, or other healthcare practitioners.

Who should I tell that I have had a blood clot?

Any doctor or healthcare professional that is caring for you, including if you are hospitalised for any reason.

Is it okay to exercise after a blood clot?

You must talk to your doctor about whether and how much you should exercise. Mild exercise such as walking and swimming can be beneficial to increasing circulation and reducing swelling.

Is it okay to travel after having a blood clot? How long should I sit at one time?

Yes – but try not to sit for more than an hour at a time. Every hour get up and walk around whenever it is safe or perform seated exercises for several minutes. If you have had a DVT you might consider wearing compression stockings, wear loose fitted clothing, avoid alcohol, and stay hydrated. Your doctor might suggest taking blood-thinners if you are traveling long-distance.