Summer Travels with Diabetes: Be Prepared for Anything
Summer will soon be here so many have already started planning for vacation. When you live with a chronic illness, such as diabetes, the best way to stay in control is to plan ahead. The National Diabetes Education Program and the American Diabetes Association offer tips for traveling with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
Before your trip, especially if it is an extended one, visit your doctor for a medical check-up. Ensure that the medications you are taking are still the right ones to control blood sugar. Have the doctor write a prescription just in case your personal bags that contain your medication are lost or damaged.
If you do not already have one, order a medical ID bracelet or necklace or keep detailed information about your medical condition in your wallet. If there is an emergency where you cannot speak for yourself, these will help medical personnel best care for you. For those with complicated medical histories, such as multiple conditions and medications, consider ordering a compact USB drive to carry that includes a full detailed description of your medical needs.
Whether you are traveling by car, plane, boat, or foot, keep a “carry-on” bag with you at all times that contains your medications (including insulin and syringes, if needed), blood and urine testing supplies (bring extra batteries for the glucose monitor), your ID, and a well-wrapped air-tight snack such as a pack of crackers, fruit, or juice box in case of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). A good rule of thumb is to pack more than you think you may need, as delays can occur.
For airplane travel, the American Diabetes Association has worked with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure passengers with diabetes have access to their supplies and equipment. The ADA offers several tip sheets and the TSA toll-free number in case you have questions about getting through airport security.
Remember that insulin should not be stored in very hot or very cold temperatures. Do not put your medications in the glove box or trunk of your car, for example. Also, if you travel by air and find you need insulin during the flight, be careful not to inject air into the insulin bottle. In the pressurized cabin, it can be harder to measure insulin accurately, note frequent diabetic travelers.
If your travel takes you across time zones, remember to take this into account for your meal planning and medication scheduled times. During your medical check-up, your doctor can help you best plan for this, depending upon the length of your trip.
During a vacation, many of us tend to eat more than we should and our activity levels often change (either for the better or worse). Check your blood sugar more often than you normally would at home to ensure you are staying in control. If you are hiking or sightseeing, remember to keep a snack handy to prevent hypoglycemia and be sure you have your medical ID on you at all times.
If you are more active than usual, such as taking long walks on the beach, wear comfortable shoes and never go barefoot. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, redness, swelling and scratches. Get medical attention at the first sign of infection or inflammation.
The National Diabetes Education Program offers many tip sheets and educational brochures for managing diabetes. The website is www.YourDiabetesInfo.org. The American Diabetes Association has more information for travelers as well at www.diabetes.org.