After several months cooped up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and out of current fears of flying, many people are looking to hit the open road and travel by car for their summer vacation.

“While traveling in your own personal car may help you avoid the virus en route to your destination, it is not without its own hazards,” says CTVS’ board-certified vascular surgeon Dr. David Nation. “Sitting in a car, or anywhere, for long periods of time can promote poor venous circulation, especially in the legs, and lead to a serious condition known as DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis.”

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep Vein Thrombosis is a deep venous disorder that occurs when blood thickens and becomes solid forming a clot, typically in the legs. A clot like this could potentially make its way to the lungs (called pulmonary embolus, or PE), and have life-threatening consequences.

DVT can be caused by prolonged inactivity — such as sitting in a car or on a plane –damage to a vein from an injury or medical procedure, cancer, a genetic disorder, or certain medications.

Most often these blood clots will at least partially resolve over time, but require blood-thinners (anticoagulant medication) to help the body resolve the clot and prevent worsened clotting or other complications. In severe cases, clots resulting from DVT may need to be treated with surgery

Symptoms of DVT or PE can be mild or hard to spot, but some may include leg swelling, leg pain or redness, leg heaviness, shortness of breath, or chest pressure.

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

How can you prevent DVT when traveling?

“The good news is that there are a few simple things you can do to keep blood flowing through the legs and help prevent DVT even while riding in the car for hours at a stretch,” says Dr. Nation.

Here are five tips to promote circulation while road-tripping:

  1. Keep legs moving every few minutes while sitting by curling and flexing toes and ankles and performing small cycling motions.
  2. Stop the car at least every two to three hours and take a short walk to stretch your muscles.
  3. Avoid wearing long socks with tight elastic at the top or consider wearing compression stockings to help keep legs comfortable and ease blood flow.
  4. Try not to cross your legs for extended periods of time.
  5. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids while traveling and stay away from too much caffeine.

For questions about any potential risk for DVT in advance of your summer travel, or for any information regarding our vascular, thoracic, or cardiac services, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment.

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Photo courtesy National Lampoon and Warner Brothers.