Summer is when people often take time off to go on a special vacation. Flying with diabetes requires proper planning and preparation. Discover how to make your flight easier so you can enjoy any destination you choose to visit.
- National security concerns mean most passengers are checked at the airport. You should declare all medical items at the checkpoint and inform personnel if you wear an insulin pump. Keep your diabetes supplies in a quart size plastic bag so they are kept separate. Certain items might be screened by hand or X-ray. If you do not want medication X-rayed inform the officer. Cold packs used to keep medical liquids cool might be screened. You do not have to disconnect your insulin pump to be screened. They may check you by touching your body, using imaging technology and/or a metal detector.
- Put supplies in your carry-on bag and keep them close at hand. Always include back-up insulin and extra supplies. Never pack any supplies or medications in your check-in luggage. Never let your medication or supplies get too hot, cold or freeze. Use a cold pack rather than a freezer pack to keep insulin cool as freezing it ruins its efficacy. Keep the insulin from directly touching the cold pack. Pack extra supplies in case of emergencies, including a back-up loaner pump if you use an insulin pump. Bring twice as many supplies as you actually need. If you must purchase insulin abroad be aware of the changes in volume and syringe sizes.
- Try to stay as close to your regular routine as possible during your trip. Pack snacks for the flight and keep them in an insulated bag with a freezer pack. You can also pack easy snacks that don’t require a cooler. Carry glucose tablets so you are always prepared to treat low blood sugars. Keep extra hydrated on the plane with plain water.
- Make an appointment with your doctor before you leave on vacation. Inquire about schedule changes and the administration of insulin and other medications. Talk about time zones and changes in insulin timing and amounts. Carry a note from your doctor that states “you have diabetes” and must have medication with you at all times. If you are visiting a foreign country have a translation of the note in that language. Give a copy of the note to the people traveling with you in case of emergencies.
- Be vocal about having diabetes and let the people you are traveling with know about what you must do to stay healthy. Advise them about how to handle emergencies. Wear a medical identification bracelet when you travel. It should state you have diabetes and list an emergency contact number. Enter an emergency contact number on your cell phone in case you are unable to communicate.
- Be aware of the servings of carbohydrates in the new foods you may eat. Research local foods before you go on vacation to find out the best choices. Use a blood glucose monitor to check your blood sugar before and after meals to see how foods are affecting your blood sugar levels. Try to keep your blood glucose in check to avoid problems.
- Keep track of time zone changes. If you are traveling to another time zone your insulin pump’s clock will need to be changed. Discuss these changes with your health care team before you go on vacation. Talk to your medical provider about getting a list of English-speaking doctors if you are traveling to a foreign country.
- Traveling often means walking around and sightseeing. Protect your feet by wearing diabetic socks and comfortable shoes. Check your feet daily for blisters, redness, cuts and swelling. Bring water shoes to wear at the beach or pool and slippers to wear in your room. Wear sunscreen to prevent a burn.
- Look into your health insurance policy prior to traveling. You may decide to supplement it with more insurance or with a plan for evacuation if there is a serious problem.
- You may want to look into Global Entry which will allow you to skip long security lines after being screened privately and paying a 5 year fee.
Planning ahead gives you peace of mind when you travel with diabetes. Have medical information and supplies handy throughout the trip. A well-prepared traveler can avoid medical emergencies and have a wonderful time.