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Experts explain how to stay healthy while traveling during the busy holiday season

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Posted at 2:39 PM, Dec 19, 2022

Nearly a third of Americans will travel for the holidays.

AAA estimates 112.7 million people will travel 50 miles or more in the time frame from December 23 to January 2. 2022 is expected to be the third busiest year for holiday travel since the company began tracking in 2000.

Nearly 102 million Americans will drive to get to their holiday destinations, and air travel will increase 14 percent over last year, AA predicts.

All that sitting can increase your risk for blood clots.

“Blood clots are a fairly common thing we see, especially in the veins,” said Dr. Hassan Kamran, who works in interventional cardiology at the Memorial Hermann Health System.

While everyone is navigating staying healthy with the flu, COVID-19, and other illnesses circulating, blood clots are another problem to watch out for.

According to the CDC, sitting for long periods of time can increase your chances of developing a deep vein thrombosis, which is a type of blood clot that forms in a large vein. Part of this clot can also break off and travel to the lungs which causes a blockage of arteries in the lung.

“It's not uncommon for people to come in that were on a flight, get here, and then start having leg swelling or leg pain or even shortness of breath,” Dr. Kamran said. “What people tend to see is that they’ll have increased pain, tenderness, or swelling in the area. It's generally just affecting one leg.”

Dr. Karman said other signs to look out for are shortness of breath if a clot breaks off and travels to the lungs.

Experts have ways you can prevent this from happening.

“Generally when you're walking, moving around, your muscles are also moving around. The legs are contracting and that helps promote the flow of blood back up the veins,” he said. “The main thing people can do to mitigate the risk is just moving occasionally.”

The CDC also has a list of risk factors that can increase your chance for travel-associated blood clots. This includes:

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

To stay healthy while traveling, the CDC recommends being up to date on routine vaccines, preparing a travel health kit, and washing your hands. Experts say you can also minimize exposure to viruses on airplanes by bringing hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, and booking direct flights instead of one with a layover.