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Traveling with Diabetes

July 31, 2011

Written for Diabetes1 by Michelle Alford

Traveling can be stressful for anyone, but those with diabetes have to deal with a variety of additional hassles and potential health hazards. It’s important to take note of how changes in your routine can affect your blood glucose, to always have medication, supplies, and snacks available when needed, and to be ready for transportation complications. Here are some preparations you can make to help your vacation go smoothly.

Overpack. The worst possible scenario is for you to end up in a situation where you don’t have your medication or supplies. Always pack more than you think you will need, and keep it somewhere accessible. If you are flying, be sure to keep your carry-on luggage fully stocked with enough medication and supplies for the full trip in case your checked baggage gets lost.

Travel Safe
  • Get a medical exam before leaving
  • Pack more insulin and supplies than you think you’ll need
  • Keep insulin temperature controlled
  • Carry snacks at all times
  • Be aware of how changes in routine affect your body
  • Store Medication Carefully. Insulin can lose some of its potency if stored at too hot or too cold of temperatures. Be aware of this when choosing where to keep your insulin while traveling. Car interiors can reach 110 to 140 degrees on hot summer days, and the glove compartment and trunk can become quite hot even when the AC is running. Consider purchasing a medical travel pack that will keep your insulin cool no matter what the surrounding temperature.

    Prepare for Airport Security. Airlines are required to allow you to bring all diabetes supplies and medication with you through security, but you should be prepared in case of hang-ups. Arrive at least an hour earlier than the airline recommends. The TSA suggests that you bring a medical id card, letter from your doctor, or prescriptions for any medicines or medical devices you’ll have with you. Though not required, these should speed up the security screening process.

    Those with insulin pumps may require extra screening. Most insulin pump manufacturers recommend that you don’t expose your pump to the x-ray machine or full-body scanner, as this could cause malfunctions. You can request a visual inspection and full-body pat down.

    Be Aware of Changes to Your Schedule. Even if you don’t travel far, your daily routine is likely to change dramatically while vacationing. You may have longer days of trying to fit everything in, or you may spend much more time sleeping in and relaxing. Either scenario can affect the timing of when you take insulin. Jetlag, weariness, or a change in activity level can make it difficult to recognize when your blood glucose is off. Make sure to test often. Also take note of when you change time zones and how that affects the length of your travel day.

    Always Carry Snacks. When you’re traveling in unfamiliar locations, you don’t know how difficult it may be to find food or whether healthy alternatives will be available at the local eateries. Also, if you’re more active than normal, you may need to eat more often than usual to prevent your blood glucose from becoming too low.

    With the right preparations, you can handle any trip, and by planning ahead you’ll avoid stress while traveling, allowing you to relax and enjoy your vacation.

    Discuss in the Diabetes1 forums

    Photo: Sean MacEntee

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