It’s that time of year again, when the warm breezes of summer are blowing and we get the urge to travel. It’s a great time to see new sites, or visit with family and friends. I recommend a bit of preparation so traveling with diabetes doesn’t have to be a challenge and be more enjoyable:
- Have a Plan. About one month prior to your trip, visit your doctor and tell them about your destination. They can help you understand about potential vaccinations and if you need them when you travel abroad. This gives you time if you develop any reaction to a vaccination. Get a physical with blood work to make sure all your diabetes numbers are in order. Discuss any issues that concern you before you leave.
- Get Organized. Make a list of your medications, doses and reasons why you take them. Include your allergies on the list. If you are traveling alone, you need to have an emergency contact in your phone and listed on your medication card. Better yet, invest in MEDIC-ALERT, a service that has an 800 number with all your health info available. Call 1-800-432-5378 for details.
- Carry Identification. You need to have identification indicating you have diabetes. If you are traveling abroad, you should have the I.D. in the language of the country you are visiting. Carry a simple phrase book in the language of the country you are visiting. A medical I.D. bracelet is an important way to communicate your health conditions with others, if you cannot.
- Carry a Letter. Most of the time, you do not need a letter indicating you are carrying needles or lancets, but it is a good idea just in case.
- Stock Up on Supplies & Medications. I recommend having one extra week of your medications and supplies if you are traveling in the U.S., and two weeks of supplies if you are traveling outside of the country. This will take the worry out of unexpected changes in your travel plans.
- Health Insurance & Trip Insurance. Check with your own insurance carrier and see what coverage is available prior to your trip. Many times, if you travel with a tour group, the insurance does NOT include preexisting conditions, including issues with your diabetes. Remember, Medicare does NOT cover your health costs outside of the United States.
- Carry All Diabetes Supplies. Carry all of your diabetic supplies, including your glucose meter, with you. Your diabetic supplies are sensitive to heat, light and humidity. Medications can also be sensitive to these conditions. Always carry glucose tabs and a food snack consisting of protein and carbohydrates. Peanut butter and an apple, or cheese and whole-wheat crackers are convenient options. This will help you avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can make you weak for hours if not treated promptly. This will help you feel your best and have energy to enjoy your vacation.
- Move. When traveling by car, plane, or train, you should stand and walk around, wiggling and rotating your ankles and feet. Do not cross your legs except at the ankles to promote better circulation. Sitting for long periods of time with no movement may encourage the formation of blood clots, which can lead to more serious complications. People with diabetes are more prone to blood clots.
- Drink. Flying and hot weather can lead to dehydration. I recommend drinking fluids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol. Water is always your best bet. If you are unsure about the local water supply, drink bottled water to avoid potential gastrointestinal problems.
- Keep a First Aid Kit Handy. No matter how or where you travel, it is always a good idea to have a first aid kit that contains the following items (at a minimum): Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, sunscreen, bug spray, over-the-counter medicines for heartburn and diarrhea, and aspirin or other medicine for fever or pain.
- Eat in Moderation & Stay Active. I definitely recommend enjoying new foods and flavors. However, watch your portion sizes. Be careful with all-you-can-eat buffets and all the glorious food they serve on cruises. When traveling abroad, be careful where you eat to avoid stomach issues. Traveling is a good time to enjoy activity and exercise. Enjoy walks, bike rides, swimming, golf, tennis and other fun activities.
- Take Good Care of Your Feet. Wear pool shoes by the pool, in the shower and at the beach for protection. Wear good sturdy and supportive shoes and fresh socks daily. You may also consider putting powder between toes to reduce the risk of developing fungus from sweaty feet. Apply lotion to feet and heels after showering. Taking care of your feet will allow you to enjoy your sightseeing even more.
Live life to the fullest and enjoy EVERY MINUTE! Take pictures and remember all the good times and be safe.
NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.
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