With a few weeks left in the summer and more people traveling this year than last year, we thought it would be a good time to remind those with diabetes of how to take care and precaution when away from home.
Depending on where you are headed, there may be specific vaccines and immunizations that you need for your destination. Be sure to get the the right ones and get them on time. Stay up to date on all of your immunizations whether traveling or not.
Eating healthy is critical for diabetics and it can be even more difficult to do when traveling. However, choosing healthy menu items like vegetables, fish, and chicken, and avoiding fried and fast foods can keep you on track which is especially important for those with diabetes. So is limiting alcoholic beverages. Ask your health care team how many alcoholic beverages you can safely drink and always eat something when you do drink to prevent low blood glucose.
If you are traveling by car on a long road trip, check your blood glucose levels before driving. You should also stop and check your blood glucose levels every two hours. Always carry your diabetes medicines and supplies in the car where you can reach them in case your blood glucose levels drop too low.
Since travel plans can often change and be out of your control, you should bring twice the amount of diabetes supplies and medicines you normally need. If you are traveling to another country, don’t count on buying supplies while there. Different countries use different kinds of diabetes medicines. Also ask your health care team if any adjustments need to be made to your medicine schedule if you are traveling across time zones.
Not that you need an excuse to buy a new pair of shoes, but since you may be walking more than usual on your trip, it’s important to take comfortable, well-fitting shoes on vacation.
If you are traveling for an extended period of time, ask your doctor for a written prescription for your diabetes medications and the name of a doctor in the place you’re visiting. If traveling by plane, ask your doctor for a letter that lists all of the medical supplies and medicines that you’ll need on the plane. The doctor should also include a list of any devices that shouldn’t go through an x-ray machine. If you use an insulin pump, ask airport security to check the device by hand. X-ray machines can damage insulin pumps, whether the pump is on your body or in your luggage.
Be sure to carry your diabetes medicines and your blood testing supplies with you and never put these items in your checked baggage. Avoid storing insulin at extreme temperatures. You also don’t want to run the risk of a lost suitcase.
Have all syringes and insulin delivery systems (including vials of insulin) clearly marked with the preprinted pharmacy label that identifies the medicine. The airline industry recommends that patients travel with their original pharmacy labeled packaging. Keep your diabetes medications and emergency snacks with you at your seat – don’t store them in an overhead bin. In case your blood sugar gets too low. If you use insulin, make sure you also pack a glucagon emergency kit.
If the airline offers a meal for your flight, call ahead for a diabetic, low fat, or low cholesterol meal. Ask when the meal will be served so you know when to take your insulin. If no food is offered on your flight, bring a meal on board yourself.
Just like when riding in a car and stopping every couple of hours, when on a plane, get up from your seat and walk around when possible to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
No matter where you go, make sure you keep your health insurance card and emergency phone numbers handy. Additionally, keep a copy of your medical information, including a list of your conditions, medicines, and recent lab test results. A list of your prescription names with dosage information and prescription numbers from your pharmacy can also be helpful in an emergency.