This holiday season, millions of families are packing their bags and preparing to see family and friends. Whether driving or flying, folks will sit motionless for hours, putting them at an increased risk for something most are unprepared for and have never heard of DVT — or deep vein thrombosis — a blood clot that could become deadly.
Frequent road trips home during college were a part of life for Mallory Click.
"I was trying just to drive straight through, just so I wouldn’t be wasting time driving," Click said.
The five-and-a-half-hour trips, however, nearly took her life at age 21.
"My leg was just throbbing and I had a hard time sleeping that night. I was just kind of tossing and turning all night," Click said.
The pain and swelling were caused by deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in her leg that nearly doubled its size and sent her to the emergency room.
"It’s crazy. I would have never thought at such a young age I could get blood clots," Click said.
DVT impacts two million people a year in the U.S., and Dr. Heather Hall said most people know nothing about it or its risks.
"It's when that clot breaks off and travels to the lung and becomes a pulmonary embolism that it can be fatal," said Hall, vascular surgeon, Weiss Memorial Hospital.
Every year, DVT kills more than 100,000 Americans, more than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
"Anything that makes a person less active or less mobile is going to put them at risk for developing a DVT," Hall said.
She said that if you are driving, then you should stop every four hours to stretch your legs to get your blood flowing.
"If you're stuck on a flight and you can't get up and walk, something you can do while you are sitting in your seat is calf raises. So, keep your toes on the floor and raise your heels up and down," Hall said.
Plus, stay hydrated.
"Try to avoid alcohol. Try to avoid becoming dehydrated when you fly," Hall explained.
Also, know your risk factors.
"Are you a smoker? Are you overweight? Do you have a family history of developing blood clots?" Hall said.
These are all things Click is aware of now.
Birth control pills can also increase your risk of DVT. If you experience sudden pain and swelling in your calf or leg, Hall recommended that you see a doctor immediately.