If you have diabetes, traveling requires extra planning. Changes in meal patterns, activity levels, and time zones can affect your blood sugar levels. Here are ways to make your trip go smoother.
Before Your Trip
- Tell your doctor about your plans. Ask for a letter explaining that you have diabetes and some extra prescriptions. Carry this with you at all times during your travel.
- Ask the doctor abut adjusting insulin doses if you’re crossing time zones.
- Get twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need. If you need immunizations, plan to get them 3 to 4 weeks before your vacation. Be aware that some shots can affect your blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor first.
- Be prepared. Scope out health care facilities where you’re going.
- Talk to the airline, hotel, or cruise ship about special meals.
- Learn certain phrases in the local language such as “I need help” or “I have diabetes,” “Where is the hospital,” or “I need sugar.”
What Should You Take?
- A piece of paper or card with your doctor’s name and phone number. Keep it with you at all times.
- A list of current medicines. Keep it with you at all times.
- Medical identification that says you have diabetes.
- Medicines, syringes, blood sugar testing supplies, and all oral medications. Keep them in your carry-on luggage. Don’t risk a checked bag getting lost or sitting in an unheated, uncooled cargo hold.
- Enough medicines and medical supplies to last an extra week.
- A traveling companion to carry some of your medical supplies, if possible.
- Some type of sugar source in case you develop low blood sugar.
Getting Through the Airport
Here are steps you can take to make your trip through airport security with diabetes supplies hassle-free:
- Tell security that you have diabetes and have medical supplies with you. You can take them through security checkpoints, but they must have a prescription label and a proper manufacturer’s label.
- Syringes will be allowed through security if you have insulin, too.
- Notify security if you’re wearing an insulin pump. They will inspect the meter — you must ask them not to remove it.
- Check the Transportation Security Administration web site for the latest list of what you can bring with you.
Taking Insulin While Traveling
- If you need an insulin injection during a flight, follow your normal procedure, but put only half as much air into your insulin bottle as usual. Air pressure on the plane is not the same as on the ground.
- Store your insulin between 33 F and 80 F. Don’t freeze it or keep it in direct sun.
Caring for Your Feet
- Pack comfortable shoes, socks, and a first-aid kit to treat minor foot injuries.
- Bring at least two pairs of shoes so you can change them often. This can help you avoid blisters and sore pressure points.
- Protect your feet at all times. Don’t go barefoot — not even by the pool, shore or while swimming. Wear shoes made for ocean or beach walking.
- Avoid open-toe shoes like sandals or flip-flops. Exposed toes make injury and infection more likely.
- Follow your daily foot-care regimen.Handling an Emergency Overseas
- If you have a diabetic emergency while you’re overseas and you don’t know where to go, try the American consulate, the Red Cross, or a local medical school.
- Prescription laws may be very different in foreign countries. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends getting a list of International Diabetes Federation groups from www.idf.org.
- Get a list of English-speaking foreign doctors from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, www.iamat.org or 716-754 4883.
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