From holiday gatherings to escaping for winter break, there are many reasons to travel during the winter. It is important to consider safe winter travel when you have diabetes. Discover ways to make your traveling experience healthier and safer.
Be well-prepared before you travel. Get a checkup about a month before you leave. If you are going overseas, get the proper immunizations. Make sure your flu and pneumonia shot are up to date since they are more prevalent during the winter season. Travel with a letter explaining all your medical issues including surgeries, medications and allergies. Ask for extra prescriptions in case you run short of medication or supplies. Talk to your doctor about changing time zones and adjusting your medications especially when taking insulin.
Wear diabetes identification in case of emergencies. Carry glucose tablets to treat low blood sugars and always pack snack foods including a protein and carbohydrate. There could be delays on bus rides, planes or trains which could affect meal times and blood sugars. Make sure if you are traveling alone that people around you know you have diabetes. Have emergency contacts listed in your wallet along with your insurance card and ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers listed in your phone.
Supplies and Devices
Pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies and medications you need in your carry-on bag. Never pack these products in regular luggage. If you use insulin, have an insulated bag to keep it cool but not touching the ice pack. Remember, insulin can freeze and become ineffective if not stored properly. Bring a glucagon kit if you have diabetes type 1 or suffer from hypoglycemic unawareness. If possible, carry a first aid kit containing a pain reliever, insect spray, sunscreen, a topical antibiotic and medications for motion sickness and diarrhea. Keep your meter and strips warm since freezing temperatures can ruin these products and lead to inaccurate results. Insulin pumps and CGM (continuous glucose monitor) should be kept close to you and not allowed to freeze.
Proper Winter Travel Dressing
Stay warm during your trip by wearing layers that can be removed as the temperature changes. Cover your head with a hat or scarf that can be pulled over your face. Wear gloves or mittens to avoid frostbite. Make sure your feet are also protected and warm. Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly for walking with diabetes socks for added protection. Pack water shoes for the hotel swimming pool and slippers to wear in your room. Never go barefoot – this protects your feet from possible injuries.
Always pack food when traveling but especially on a road trip in case there are no reasonable restaurants in the area. Have plenty of bottled water or zero calorie drinks to stay hydrated. Limit your intake of fatty foods and sugary snacks. Pack sandwiches, sugar-free applesauce and vegetables instead. Get out of the car every hour or two to take a short walk for exercise and improved circulation. Test your blood sugar every two hours if you are the driver. Pack a winter emergency travel kit. Items to have in the kit include a cell phone charger, flashlight with extra batteries, a windshield scraper, battery-powered radio, a shovel, rope or chains, as well as jumper cables, road maps, a compass, flares and flags, road salt and waterproof matches. Keep plenty of blankets in the car in case you get chilly. Also, pack extra clothes, hats, socks, and gloves, as well as a warm jacket and a change of shoes and weather-resistant boots in case you get wet. Change out of cold, wet clothes right away to avoid problems. Pack unscented lotion and lip balm to keep your skin soft in the harsh weather.
Traveling in the winter can be wonderful if you are well-prepared. Be aware of the precautions you should take when you have diabetes and pack accordingly. This helps to ensure you have a great trip!