Traveling With Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious, chronic condition—one that requires constant monitoring and, oftentimes, daily medication. You cannot put your diabetes on hold, even when you are on vacation. But having diabetes doesn’t mean that you cannot take—and enjoy—a vacation. It just means that you have a little more planning to do.
A Trip to the Doctor
Before you travel, it is a good idea to see your doctor. Schedule a medical exam to make sure your ]]>diabetes]]> is in good control. Make your appointment early enough so that if your diabetes is not in good control, you have some time to work on it. Also, ask your doctor to write a prescription for insulin or any diabetes medications that you use. Always take more than enough medication with you, but have the prescription with you in case of an emergency, such as your medication getting lost or stolen.
Ask your doctor to write you a letter as well. The letter should state that you have diabetes and what you need to do for your diabetes. The letter should list insulin, medications, syringes, glucose monitors, or any other medications or devices that you need. In addition, if you have any food or drug allergies, have your doctor list that as well.
When you pack for your trip, bring at least twice as much medication and blood testing supplies as you think you will need. Put at least half of the supplies in a carry-on bag that you hand carry on to the plane. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests that you pack your carry-on with the following items:
- All the insulin and syringes that you will need for the entire trip
- Blood and urine testing supplies (bring extra batteries, too)
- All oral diabetes medications
- Any other medications or medical supplies that you are taking or may need
- Your ID and diabetes identity card
- A well-wrapped, air-tight snack pack of crackers or cheese, peanut butter, fruit, juice box, and some form of sugar (glucose tablets or hard candy)
One of the most important things that you can do for yourself is to always wear a medical ID bracelet that states that you have diabetes.
At the Airport
In today’s world of heightened security, you will need to be a little more prepared when traveling via airplane. The Transportation Security Administration, an agency within the US Department of Transportation, offers the following suggestions for airline passengers with diabetes when passing through security at the airport.
- Notify the screener that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you.
- Notify screeners if you are wearing an insulin pump and, if necessary, tell the screener that it cannot be removed since it is surgically implanted.
- Tell screeners if you are experiencing ]]>low blood sugar]]> and are in need of medical assistance.
The following diabetes related supplies and equipment are allowed through the checkpoint once they have been screened:
- Insulin and insulin loaded dispensing products (vials or box of individual vials, jet injectors, pens, infusers, and preloaded syringes)
- Unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin
- Lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, insulin pumps, and insulin pump supplies
- Insulin in any form or dispenser must be properly marked with a professionally printed label identifying the medication or manufacturer's name or pharmaceutical label.
- Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin with professionally printed labels identifying the medication or manufacturer's name or pharmacy label.
- It is recommended that used syringes be transported in your checked baggage; however, when used syringes need to be in your carry-on, ensure they are in a hard, plastic-capped container (ie, sharps disposable container) for safety and containment.
At Your Destination
If your trip leads you to a different time zone, calculate in advance when to take your insulin shots or medications. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you plan your medication schedule. Keep in mind that eastbound travel across time zones means a shorter day, in which case you may need less insulin. Westbound travel, on the other hand, means a longer day, which may mean you will need more insulin. Keep your watch set to your home time zone until you land. This will help you keep track of your schedule while you are traveling through changing time zones.
Test your blood sugar soon after landing, as the feeling of jet lag may interfere with your ability to tell if you have low or high blood sugar. If you are going to be more active on vacation than you are at home, this can cause your blood sugar to drop. Make sure to adjust your insulin accordingly if your activity level increases or decreases. If you are touring around, wear comfortable shoes and don’t go barefoot. Check your feet for blisters, scratches, or cuts at night and get medical attention if you notice inflammation or infection.
Wherever and whenever you travel, make sure to always carry some food with you and glucose tablets or hard candy. And don’t forget your sense of adventure. Having diabetes means you have to be a little more prepared, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun.
American Diabetes Association
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
Canadian Diabetes Association
Travelers and consumers: persons with disabilities or medical concerns. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: http://www.tsa.gov/public/display?content=495. Accessed September 2003.
When you travel. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/main/type2/living/travel/default.jsp. Accessed September 2003.
Last reviewed January 2008 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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