Summer is upon us, and for many people that means travel plans! Diabetes shouldn’t hold anyone back from getting out and enjoying the fun! The important thing to focus on, is taking your care routine with you.
Packing double the amount of medication and supplies you usually use is a great idea, in case of delays in traveling or other unexpected events. Think about packing medication, test strips, lancets, batteries for your meter, and ketone strips. Always take copies of prescriptions with you, should you need to get refills on the road. Keep your health insurance card and emergency contacts in an easy to find place for emergencies; wear your medical ID bracelet or necklace. If on insulin, be sure to bring a glucagon kit, as well as plenty of syringes or other insulin delivery devices. It is also a good idea to check out where to get medical care near your travel destination. Better to be prepared and not need it then want it and not have it.
Bring a note with you from your doctor explaining that you have diabetes and what medications you need. If traveling to a location where a different language is spoken, consider having the note translated into the appropriate language(s). Medications and other diabetic supplies should be packed in your carry on bag, rather than in checked luggage so that there is no risk of losing it. Keep time zone changes in mind as you go, and be sure to take your medication at your usual times.
If you utilize an insulin pump, there are a few extra things to consider. Request a private screening at the airport, rather than going through the body scanner. Make sure you have extras of all your supplies – reservoirs, infusion sets, inserters if you need one, extra batteries for your pump, glucose tablets, non-perishable snacks and insulin.
With driving, or flying, there is always a risk of blood clots when you sit still for a while. Try to move around every hour or two if you are at risk for these. Insulin that is open and in use, needs to be kept at room temperature. If you will be in a hot car or other area, remember to pack your insulin with a cooling ice pack, putting a towel between the ice and medication to prevent it from accidentally freezing. If you are in an area that will be excessively cold, keep your open insulin close to your body to keep it the appropriate temperature. Unopened insulin should always be kept at refrigerator temperature, so this should be wrapped in a towel and placed with an ice pack as well.
Prepare for Lows
Pack plenty of pure sugar items that you can use in case of a low blood sugar. Healthy snacks like fruit, raw veggies and bottled water are a good idea too as these are not always readily available on the road or in the air. Make sure you have access to nutrition information. If the places you will be eating at don’t have carbohydrate information readily available, download a nutrition database app such as Calorie King or Nutrition Data, or get a hard copy of their pocket guide versions.
Once you arrive at your travel destination, try to maintain your usual activity level to keep blood sugars in check. And above all else, test your blood sugar! Even more than usual, since changes in routine, eating and exercise habits can drastically affect blood sugar levels. The more you check, the more chances you have to improve the results. It can be difficult to balance your diabetes with changes in routine, but it if you plan ahead you can fully enjoy your summer vacation!
Gabrielle Kemble, RD, CDE
Cecelia Health CDE & Clinical Manager