How Can I Lower the Risk of Blood Clots While Traveling?

Traveling During the Holidays

APS Program Community Q&A Series

Yu (Ray) Zuo, MD, MSCS
Yu (Ray) Zuo, MD, MSCS

If you are an antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) patient, traveling long distances can increase your risk of developing blood clots. In this edition of the APS Program Community Q&A Series, Dr. Yu (Ray) Zuo discusses safe travel and steps you can take to lower the risk of travel-related blood clots.

As the holiday season approaches, many of you will begin making travel plans to reunite with your loved ones or have a long overdue escape. Your to-do list can be extensive and stressful. Being an antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) patient and having an elevated risk of blood clots - particularly during long-haul travel - can add even more stress. This is especially true in the era of COVID-19, when travel restrictions abound, and delays are quite prevalent. What can you do to prepare and be more confident about your upcoming trip?

While travel-related blood clots are rare in healthy individuals, having antiphospholipid antibodies or APS may increase the risk of developing blood clots on long journeys. This is largely due to long periods of immobility, often sitting in cramped spaces (either in the car or airplane), which creates an ideal environment for a blood clot to form. The longer the trip, the more at risk you are for developing a clot. Studies have shown that trips lasting eight hours or longer pose the greatest risk for blood clots [1].

Here are some simple steps you can take to lower the risk of travel-related blood clots:

  • Take your medications - Continue to take all your APS medications and make sure you have plenty for the trip
  • Avoid constrictive clothing - Wear loose and comfortable clothes
  • Stretch frequently - Walk around and stretch your legs whenever you can; try to massage your calves every 30 minutes or so
  • Consider compression stockings - Wearing compression stockings or flight socks can help prevent blood clots during long journeys
  • Hydrate well - Drink plenty of water

If you notice leg swelling, leg tenderness, reddish discoloration of the skin that is warm to touch, unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, or fast heart rate after your long journey, you need to seek immediate medical attention.

I hope my list will be helpful when you are planning your holiday trips. The Michigan Medicine APS Program team would like to wish you safe travels and a very happy holiday season!

Contributed by Yu (Ray) Zuo, MD, MSCS


  1. Anderson FA, Jr., Spencer FA. Risk factors for venous thromboembolism. Circulation. 2003;107:I9-16

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