How to spot the signs of deadly blood clots – after fears linked to AstraZeneca jab
FEARS around blood clot links with the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine have sent Europe into a panic.
But experts say blood clots are “not uncommon”, and there could be dozens of reasons for the conditions, including sitting in a car for a long journey.
More than half of EU nations have suspended use of the AZ jab while investigations into a handful of deaths are ongoing, including France, Germany and Sweden.
World and EU leaders will meet today to discuss the safety of the jab, but are telling nations to keep jabbing to “save lives”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the vaccine — already given to over 11million in the UK — was both safe and effective and there was “no reason at all” to stop the immunization blitz.
UK and EU health regulators and the World Health Organization have assured at this stage there is no evidence to say the blood clots were caused by the vaccine, and it may just be a coincidence
Thrombosis UK says “many people have little or no understanding about the causes and effects of thrombosis, and how it can be prevented”.
Blood clots are a leading cause of death in the UK, claiming the lives of one in four people who develop one.
However, they can be treated early, if you know the signs to look out for.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of your body, usually in your legs.
If a blood clot breaks off from a DVT and travels to the lung, this causes a pulmonary embolism (PE). This can be fatal.
The signs and symptoms of a DVT include:
- Swelling, usually in one leg (or arm)
- Leg pain or tenderness
- Reddish / blue skin discoloration
- Leg (or arm) warm to touch
The signs and symptoms of a PE include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Chest pain-sharp, stabbing; that may get worse with deep breaths
- A rapid heart rate
- Unexplained cough, sometimes with blood-streaked mucus
Another blood clotting condition is thrombocytopenia, which is when your blood platelet count is so low that the blood is not efficiently clotting when it needs to.
In rare cases, the number of platelets can be so low that dangerous internal bleeding occurs.
The signs and symptoms of thrombocytopenia include:
- Easy or excessive bruising (purpura)
- Superficial bleeding into the skin that appears as a rash of pinpoint-sized reddish-purple spots (petechiae), usually on the lower legs
- Prolonged bleeding from cuts
- Bleeding from your gums or nose
- Blood in urine or stools
- Unusually heavy menstrual flows
- Enlarged spleen
Blood clots can occur in people of any age, ethnicity and gender.
But a DVT is more likely to happen if you:
- are over 60
- are overweight
- have had DVT before
- take the contraceptive pill or HRT
- have cancer or heart failure
- have varicose veins
There are some temporary situations when you’re at more risk of DVT, which is why they can occur in people without the above risk factors.
You could get a blood clot if you:
- are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you cannot move around much (like after an operation)
- are confined to bed
- go on a long journey (more than 3 hours) by plane, car or train
- are pregnant or if you’ve had a baby in the previous 6 weeks
- are dehydrated
Blood clots can also be a complication of some diseases – including heart disease and diabetes.
Even Covid-19 has been shown to cause blood clots in severely ill patients, often leading to their death.
BLOOD CLOTS AND VACCINES
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there had been just 30 reports of blood clots among close to five million people given the vaccine across Europe, as of March 10.
This is far lower than what would be expected, experts say.
For this reason, Brits have been told to carry on taking the vaccine because the benefits of protection against Covid outweighs and potential risk of the jab.
Blood clots – which can cause heart attacks and strokes – are “not uncommon” scientists say, diagnosed about 3,000 times a month in the UK.
About 30 blood clots were reported by 9.7million people given Oxford doses by late February.
In comparison, the figure was 38 cases among the first 10.7million Pfizer vaccines.
AZ has found fewer than 40 cases of blood clots and related conditions in 17 million people vaccinated across Europe.
The drug giant says that the numbers of blood clots “are lower than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population”.
The cases reported in people recently vaccinated could simply be a coincidence. Given that millions of people are getting a jab every week, it’s inevitable there will be some crossover.
Dr Hilary Jones told Good Morning Britain: “It’s almost certainly a coincidence.
“It’s absolutely right and reassuring that we have got an investigation in place to look at the level of blood clots that have been reported in Norway and Ireland and in all the EU countries and the UK and around the world.”
Even if there were an increase in blood clots diagnosed, there are a whole host of reasons that would need to be considered.
For example, Thrombosis UK recently said it feared more people were getting blood clots as a result of inactivity during the pandemic.
Dr Hilary Jones tries to reassure public as more countries pause AstraZeneca Covid vaccine use despite ‘no link’ to blood clots