Travel Safely with Diabetes

Is a summer vacation in your plans? If so, knowing the rules for traveling with diabetes can keep you safe and healthy so you can enjoy your trip.

Before You Go

It is important that you make an appointment to see your physician at least a month before you go. If you need immunizations for where you are going, you will have time to receive them and recover from any side effects before you leave. You will also want to be tested to be certain your diabetes is under good control.

Besides making sure you are in good health, you will need to get some information from your physician, including a fresh prescription for your insulin or pills. While you should always travel with sufficient supplies, including testing supplies, to see you through your trip (experts recommend packing twice as much as you think you will need), the prescription would be necessary in the event of an emergency.

Wearing a medical ID necklace or bracelet, or carrying a note from your medical practitioner detailing your diagnosis and the medications and equipment (syringes, pump) you require, is valuable in the event you are incapacitated and cannot let medical personnel know that you have diabetes. It is also proof that you can display to TSA if you are flying to your destination.

If you plan to travel abroad be sure to research prescription laws where you are going.

While Traveling

Make certain all of your diabetic supplies are packed and close to you. If flying, do not check the bag containing these items; carry it on board. Don’t leave in the trunk or glove compartment of a car, because your supplies could be damaged by excess heat. Also make certain you carry with you a small snack, including crackers, cheese or peanut butter, fruit, a small container of juice, and some hard candy or glucagon, in the event of low blood sugar.

If you are flying you should be very familiar with TSA screening rules and your rights. Notify TSA at time of screening that you are diabetic, and present your proof. Pack your supplies in clear, sealable plastic bags (make sure prescriptions have original labels), and separate out for screening. For any questions about screening rules, call 1-855-787-2227 72 hours before traveling.

For those wearing an insulin pump, be aware that you will be subject to additional pre-flight screening, including an explosive trace check of the hands.

Whether flying or in a restaurant don’t inject insulin until you receive your meal. This will reduce the possibility of experiencing hypoglycemia as the result of any delay in receiving your food. Be careful not to inject air into your syringe when loading it during air flight. Air pressure within the plane can cause the plunger to resist, potentially altering your dosage.

Check your blood sugar levels more frequently. Heightened activity, unfamiliar diet and exhaustion might impact your insulin needs. Try to arrange your schedule to make certain you are having meals at regular intervals, and keep a small snack with you, in the event your meal is delayed.

Ask for the ingredients of food items that are unfamiliar to you.

Avoid tap water, including ice, if you are overseas. Be careful about overindulging.

Wear comfortable shoes, and be careful to check for blisters after a long day of walking. Don’t go barefoot, even at the beach.

Dress for the weather, and try to avoid getting overheated or excessive sweating. Stay hydrated.

With careful attention to your diabetes you can enjoy your travels and experience the world on your terms.

Sources: American Diabetes Association (TSA Fact Sheet) , American Diabetes Association and American Diabetes Association (travel fact sheets)

Image courtesy: Transportation Security Agency (TSA)

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