A recent medical study has concluded that women who vacation at least twice a year run a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular problems compared to women who vacation rarely. The study also found that travel results in stress relief almost immediately. Reasons for setting off on that long-delayed vacation are many. But is it so easy to take off when you, or someone you want to share your holiday with, are suffering from adverse health conditions like diabetes? Diabetes exposes you to a whole new set of challenges while travelling. Changes in diet, activity and time zones cause fluctuations in blood sugar level. A chance injury can aggravate into life-threatening situations. But this in no way should hinder you from getting away to your favorite destination. With proper planning and preparation you can indeed travel in style and have all the fun on your next vacation or business trip abroad.
How to prepare yourself for travel
1) Consult your doctor: Discuss your travel needs as well as itinerary with your doctor. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels need to be checked. If they are manageable and general health is good, you may be given the go-ahead by your physician. You need to get extra prescriptions and supplies of medicines, as well as a letter from your doctor explaining you have diabetes.
2) Inform your airline: You need to update your travel agency or airlines about your health condition. You can opt for special meals which are sugar free and low in cholesterol (but do stock up on extra food because delays or schedule changes do happen). The airline can also provide you information on the change in time zones and how you may need to adjust your medication and insulin accordingly. If you feel any additional help maybe required while flying, you can let the service provider know of it as well.
3) Get all your immunization done beforehand: Several countries and travel locations require mandatory immunization shots. Get them done and monitor your sugar levels. In case of fluctuations consult your doctor and bring your glucose levels back to normal.
4) All your medical supplies should have proper manufacturers’ labels: This is required as per flying security norms. Check with the Transport Security Administration on restrictions, and what you can carry with you.
5) Know your destination: Familiarize yourself with the medical facilities available in your country of travel. Many have separate government-owned and private institutes which offer various care facilities. Ensure you have proper insurance which covers your medical needs as well. Be sure of the extent of your coverage when abroad and the procedure involved in claiming international healthcare expenses.
Precautions you need to take in-flight
1) Carry all the diabetes supplies in your carry-on luggage: Do make it a point to keep your medicines, syringes, blood testing supplies and emergency snacks in your carry-on luggage. Insulin should always have a cool packaging, preferably lined with iced gel packs. Check-in baggage and cargo hold do not have proper heating or insulation systems. Your medicines may get damaged in extreme or fluctuating temperatures if they are checked-in. Also, there is the possibility of your luggage getting misplaced or lost.
2) Carry something sweet: With fluctuations in your normal routine there is a possibility of sudden changes in sugar levels. Always carry some sugar source with you to combat hypoglycemia. You need to keep in mind that running high on sugar is less dangerous than it dipping too low.
3) Your companion or flight attendant should know of your medical condition: This is very important if you are travelling alone. If you are asleep you may need to be woken up for medicines or insulin shots. You need to check the best available airlines for your route and make your booking taking into consideration the time of departure and arrival, and the change in the time zone, if any. Flight Network is a reliable service which gives you comprehensive details about available flights, flight timings, and comparative fares.
4) Check your blood sugar levels: While travelling you need to check and monitor your sugar levels more frequently than usual. This can alert you to any fluctuations.
5) Stretch your limbs: It is important you take a walk around to ease your cramped limbs. This helps in blood circulation and prevents fluid retention.
Tips to keep in mind when you are in foreign locations
1) Be updated about foreign prescription laws: Medical prescription laws differ from country to country. You can obtain on request a list of laws from International Diabetes Federation which will make it easier for you to navigate yourself medically while abroad. You can get fair knowledge of the diabetes medication prescribed in the country/countries of your visit and its variations or equivalents there. Insulin strengths differ too. If you have to purchase insulin abroad, make sure you use the right syringe and administer the proper quantity.
2) Find out good medical facilities in your place of visit: You need to find out reliable and quality medical institutions which you can approach for assistance if required. Be in the know of places that have English-speaking healthcare professionals.
3) Always use proper gear: Ensure that you don’t have any physical injuries or accidents. Use suitable clothing and footwear. Don’t walk bare feet in pools or lawns. Your feet are especially susceptible because diabetes can damage the nerve endings and blood vessels in your feet, making healing all the more difficult. Prevent minor cuts and bruises which may lead to ulcerous lesions or serious infections.
Always carry a list of addresses and contact numbers of American embassies and consulates to approach in case of emergencies. Carry or wear identification on you about your medical condition. It would be advisable if you have a copy in the local language as well.
Diabetes is not a hindrance to travel. If you take proper care of your health, have medication on time, eat healthy and carefully monitor sugar levels, you are assured of a safe and enjoyable journey. Give your health the top priority and make sure you create some great memories along the way.