August 30th 2023

Preventing DVT while Travelling with Mr Donagh Healy

How to Prevent and Reduce Risk of DVT While Travelling


The possibility of developing a DVT has an reader worried after booking a long-haul flight to Australia. Each week puts health questions from readers to our consultants. This reader is asking Mr Donagh Healy, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at Beacon Hospital, for advice on preventing DVT while travelling.

Mr Healy starts by assuring that the risk of developing DVT after prolonged travel is very low for most people. However, travelling for longer than 4-6 hours, whether by air, sea or land, can be associated with a small risk of DVT, with about 1 in 2,000 people developing it after prolonged travel. Those who do develop DVT have one or more risk factors. Most cases of DVT after travel are found in the first two weeks after the journey.

Mr Healy outlines the relevant risk factors for someone developing DVT after travel, this includes

  • Recent major surgery
  • Active cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Advanced age
  • Use of oestrogen hormonal treatment (eg. for contraception or HRT)
  • Obesity
  • Previous DVT
  • Family history of DVT

Though smoking is associated with DVT it is not considered a major risk factor. DVTs associated with travel are believed to be caused by a number of combined factors including reduced blood circulation in the legs, blood being slightly thicker and dehydration.


Reducing the Risk of DVT

Mr Healy recommends that everybody take some simple measures to help reduce the risk of DVT during travel. This involves taking a short walk up and down the aisle of the plane every 2-3 hours, keeping the legs moving with simple calf muscle exercises while sitting, and staying well-hydrated.

For those with DVT risk factors, Mr Healy advises wearing knee-length graduated compression stockings that provide 15-30mmHg of pressure. These prevent blood pooling and have been proven to reduce travel related DVTs.

Blood-thinning medication is not advised due to the risk of bleeding and as they are unproven to be effective for this short-term purpose explains Mr Healy.

However, if an individual is at high risk for DVT, they should consult their GP and medication may be considered. High risk for DVT may be an individual who has had a DVT before and also has other risk factors.


As always, if you have any health concerns visit your GP and get checked.

Mr Donagh Healy’s full piece and advice on preventing DVT while travelling can be read here on