SUMMER VACATIONS: Tips for Traveling With Diabetes
Submitted by Kathy Wool,RD,LDN, with excerpts from Tracey Neithercott, Diabetes Forecast
Vacations can seem heavenly until you pack. Then reality hits: You’ve packed your carry-on with your vacation wardrobe, a second pair of shoes, and back-up toiletries—but what about diabetes stuff? Don’t let your diabetes keep you home! Start here to head off a few of the possible hassles.
Before You Leave
People have a tendency to over-pack—bringing those backup shoes just in case the safari includes a formal dinner—except when it comes to medications. Along with any meds, there are a few other items that will come in handy.
Stock Up. Refill any prescriptions and be sure you’re well stocked with necessary devices. If you use a pump, bring syringes and vials of long- and short-acting insulin as backup.
Note Your Contacts. Make a list of your health care providers including their names and phone numbers, note your medications, and carry a copy of your health insurance card. If you run out of medication, experience a health problem, or have a medical emergency, you or a travel companion will know whom to call.
Plan to Communicate. If you don’t speak the language of your destination, write down translations of diabetes terms. Include phrases such as I have diabetes, I need juice, and Where is the hospital?.
Ready to Leave Your luggage is packed, the windows are closed, the plants are watered you did shut off the iron, so now it’s time to hit the road!
Ease Through Airports. Carry a letter from your doctor explaining that you have diabetes. For using insulin and other injectables, the note should include information on how you take the meds—via syringes, pens, or an insulin pump—and if you use a continuous glucose monitor(CGM). A doctor’s note isn’t required by the TSA for a person with diabetes to pass through security, but having one makes the process go smoother if an officer questions your meds and supplies.
Keep Supplies Close. Everything you need to care for your diabetes and any other medical condition should be packed in a carry-on. The risks of temperature extremes, unpressurized cargo space, and losing your luggage are too great. Keep your diabetes supplies together and separate from nonmedical supplies.
Know Your Liquids. All diabetes supplies are fair game for carry-ons, including insulin, which is an exception to the 3-ounce liquid limit.
Manage Temperatures. Don’t worry about keeping your opened insulin vials or pens cold—insulin in use will be stable at room temperature for about 30 days. If you bring back-up insulin for a long trip, keep it cool during travel by using strategically placed cold packs. Be cautious as too-cold temperatures are equally as damaging to injectable meds as heat and sunlight.
Carry Quick Carbohydrates for Lows. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, bring glucose tablets, candy, or gel to treat lows. And always pack more than you think you’ll need for the entire trip.
Bring Healthy Food. Pack snacks or a meal that you can eat in transit—in case there’s no place or time to purchase a bite to eat. Even if your flight will serve a meal (which occurs only on long flights), packing healthy snacks is smart.
Set Your Watch. When taking multiple daily injections and crossing time zones, use long-acting insulin at the same time you take it at home.. That is, if you take it at 9 a.m. at home but traveling east has put you three hours ahead, you’d take insulin at noon. (Wearing a watch set to your home time zone can help.) Short-acting insulin can still be taken at mealtime, regardless of the time change. Different rules apply to pumps. “With a pump, it’s good to change to the destination time as soon as you start flying.
Wear an ID. Identify your name and conditions on a bracelet or necklace, just in case.
Safety When Traveling
Count on Exercise. Chances are, you’ll be doing plenty of sightseeing—and walking. More activity than usual may put you at risk for hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Carry a source of glucose at all times. If you use insulin, a lower dose may be necessary. Discuss with your health care provider before you leave.
What to Pack
Here’s a checklist; depending on your regimen, you may not require all items
✓ Medications, oral and injectable
✓ Syringes and/or pen needles
✓ Alcohol swabs, prep wipes
✓ Pump cartridges and infusion sets
✓ Meter, blood glucose strips
✓ Lancing device, lancets
✓ Ketone strips
✓ Meter control solution
✓ CGM sensors, inserter, charger
✓ Backup batteries
✓ Electrical adaptor (for overseas)
✓ Glucose tablets, gel
✓ Glucagon kit
✓ First-aid supplies for treating cuts
✓ Doctor’s letter, medical contacts ✓ Snacks
Enjoy your time away!!