Traveling is one of the most enjoyable life experiences, but, for many, it can be a difficult or even life threatening option. Individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes need to watch their blood sugar very closely and monitor how any spikes may affect their bodies. This factor can make long distance travel seem like a nearly insurmountable task. For the penultimate day of Passport Health’s Holiday Travel Tips countdown, we consider what individuals with Type 2 (or any form of) Diabetes can do to overcome these issues and still have an enjoyable trip.
Before You Go
Regulating blood glucose levels can be tricky even in the best of circumstances, but when traveling across time zones, extra challenges are added. If you are diabetic, schedule a visit with your primary care physician at least 4-6 weeks before traveling. Be sure to bring your full travel itinerary and discuss it with your doctor. He or she will be able to help you determine how to best adjust your schedule for your trip, both while traveling and once you have arrived in your destination.
Be sure to ask your doctor about getting a prescription to take with you on your trip just in case you need to purchase more insulin. You should bring enough medications and materials with you for the whole trip, but it is always good to have a backup plan.
This table gives a good idea of what you should bring with you (remembering that you should verify this with your health specialist as well):
|TWO Blood Glucose Testers||Pump Supplies (if necessary)||Syringes|
|Extra Batteries||Insulin||Medical Bracelet|
|Insulin Lancets||Test Strips||Snacks|
It is also very important to be vaccinated against any infections that may be present in the place you will be traveling to. Many vaccines that for the average traveler are simply recommended can be almost required for those with diabetes or other immunosuppressive issues. A Passport Health Travel Specialist would be able to give you a good idea of which vaccines you may or may not need, depending on your specific health situation.
As You Travel
Traveling with all of your equipment isn’t nearly as difficult as it might seem. The FAA and TSA are very aware of the millions of people that regularly travel with diabetes, and they will provide a hand-check of your supplies if you would prefer for them not to be X-rayed. Be sure to bring the original boxes for your medication, as the authorities do require proof and no longer accept the prescription alone due to forgery concerns.
Once through security, be sure to keep in mind the schedule you have set with your doctor. Even individuals who do not test frequently at home should test at least every 4-6 hours while traveling. Be sure to stay well hydrated with nonalcoholic, caffeine-free drinks throughout the flight.
Though there are some studies that can speak to when to use insulin with flights, it is better to speak with your doctor about your specific situation.
While You’re There
Just like on your flight, it is important to test blood sugar levels frequently even when you reach your destination. Changes in schedule and time zone can affect your glucose levels, and it is best to test more often than usual. If you do need to take insulin, vials retain their potency for at least 1 month at room temperature, but, if you are in a warmer climate, be sure to refrigerate your insulin, just to be safe.
Snacks are important when you are traveling. If your blood sugar is low, eat something you brought with you from home to help. While many countries have good food options to keep sugar levels stable, do your research before going and eat local foods in very small amounts. New foods could have different effects from what you are used to, even if the food looks like something familiar.
Finally, be sure to use proper footwear! Comfortable shoes will go a long way in stopping blisters or other unwanted complications. Check your feet daily for blisters, cuts, redness, swelling and scratches, especially if you have peripheral neuropathy.
For more information on diabetes and how it can affect you, visit the CDC’s Diabetes Portal.
Do you have diabetes? What do you do when you travel to avoid complications? Comment below or on the Passport Health Facebook page with what works best for you.