Summer is almost here and the living is easy during a warm-weather getaway. Make it even easier by being well-prepared to take a trip with diabetes. Discover a few simple preparations that can go a long way when it comes to comfort and optimum health when you have diabetes and are away from home.
- Always have plenty of diabetes supplies on-hand, whether you are going on a road trip, cruise, train or plane. Bring more than you need – one extra week’s worth if you’re staying in the US and two extra week’s worth if traveling outside the country. This is suggested so you can be prepared for emergencies. Pack them in a carry-on that you can hold with you at all times. Avoid extreme high and low temperatures that can affect glucose meters or strips and spoil your insulin. Use a device to keep your insulin cool, such as a cold pack. Avoid insulin from touching the freezer pack since it can cause the insulin to freeze and minimize its efficacy.
- Try to follow your regular routine to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. Pack extra snacks and sugar free drinks in case of delays or layovers. Rice cakes, light popcorn and whole grain crackers are examples of snacks that do not require refrigeration. Add a protein source including peanut or almond butter which will help with balancing your blood sugars and increase satiation. If you expect to go through a time zone change, consult with your physician about making changes to your regular diabetes schedule, including blood sugar testing and the administration of insulin or other medications.
- Let people know you have diabetes, including your traveling companions, airport security and other key personnel. Carry a document, such as a note on a letterhead from your physician, stating you have diabetes and must have medications, meters, insulin pumps and supplies in your possession at all times. If you are visiting another country, have a note in their native language if possible. Make copies of the note for those who are traveling with you. Also bring along a list of emergency contacts. Wear visible ID that will alert emergency personnel about your diabetes condition.
- Pack diabetes supplies in quart sized plastic containers so they can be immediately recognized by airport security. Keep insulin pens and bottles in their original packaging to show the prescription is yours. If you use an insulin pump, contact the pump company to find out about getting a back-up or loaner to take on your trip in case the one you wear stops operating.
- Test your blood sugar before and after meals. Keep a logbook handy to note variations in blood sugars since unfamiliar or foreign dishes may cause bigger fluctuations than expected. Try to consider the grams of carbohydrates, sugar, fat and salt in the foods you choose. Eat reasonable portion sizes.
- Be ready to handle low glucose, which may happen when your usual routine is disrupted by delays and increased physical activity. Always bring glucose tablets with you wherever you go as they are easy to carry and resist melting.
- Make sure you are properly prepared to have fun in the sun. Bring along sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat to keep you protected from harmful rays. Pack comfortable, closed shoes for walking and going out. Wear socks which wick moisture to avoid foot problems or infections. Include slippers to wear before bed and water shoes to put on at the pool and beach. Your feet should always be covered. Also pack moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated after exposure to the sun and elements. Verify travel sizes if you are going on a plane.
- If you are driving during the trip, check your blood glucose before you get behind the wheel. Make sure to stop for rests that include hydration, food and blood sugar checks. Download exercise and food apps to your phone for easy access to important health care information during your trip.
Summer vacations give you a chance to relax, reduce stress and have new adventures. Being well-prepared can help you avoid problems during your trip. You can take care of your diabetes during a summer vacation and still have a great time!