Traveling with diabetes
For diabetics, especially those on insulin, travel can be daunting. This article aims to help diabetics reduce the stress of traveling and make planning for a trip as enjoyable as possible.
The most common concern of diabetics is carrying medications in the luggage. Generally, airport security will allow passengers to board the airplane with insulin, insulin syringes and insulin pumps as well as all diabetes medications, nutrition and supplies. As long as the rooms are properly ventilated and air-conditioned, there is no need to bring medications in coolers.
The advent of the insulin pens and portable glucose kits as well as insulin pumps make it easy and handy to carry medication. Insulin pens are either refillable or disposable and come with cartridges that can be stored in a small portable case as small as an eyeglasses case. This makes it easy for pens to be stored in a carry-on bag or even a shoulder bag.
Modern glucose meters are small and handy. Some as small as a mid-sized cellular phone, others a little bigger than a ballpoint pen—allowing for easy storage of materials and blood glucose paraphernalia.
Storing insulin in check-in baggage is not advised because of the variable temperatures in the holding area. If you do have insulin in your check-in luggage, make sure it is well protected and sealed with a bubble wrap and towel or an airtight container packed in the middle of the suitcase.
Arrive at the airport at least 2-3 hours before the flight. Pack medications in a clear resealable bag and if possible bring prescription labels for each medication and medical device. Carry medications in your carry-on bags for easier inspection. This also ensures that the medications are kept within reach in case of rerouting, airport delays or the possibility of a lost or delayed check-in luggage. To prevent hypoglycemia, pack a nutrition bar, a small sandwich or any portable snack. Make sure to be well-hydrated when you travel.
To make your trip both smooth and hassle-free, always plan ahead. See your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks prior to a trip and ensure your glucose levels are well-controlled. Make sure any adjustments to your medications are made a few days to several weeks before the scheduled trip.
Pack extra medication always—bring twice as much as you think you may need for the trip and do not change formulations of insulin prior to the trip to avoid changes in blood glucose levels while traveling. If traveling internationally, be aware of time zone changes for the next shot of insulin. The airline will provide meals for diabetic patients as long as you call ahead of time and inform them of your special needs.
Always wear comfortable shoes when traveling and check your feet daily for blisters, redness or cuts or scratches. Try to move around the airport or when on the road to lower your risk of forming blood clots in the legs, especially for diabetics who are prone to peripheral arterial disease. Wear comfortable shoes in the plane and avoid tight heels for women or shoes for men.
Glucose monitoring is done more frequently on the road—every 4 to 6 hours. Patients are advised to keep well-hydrated as well as to carry snacks to prevent hypoglycemia. Adjustments to doses of insulin are unnecessary unless the patients are crossing more than five time zones in the trip.
DIABETES TRIVIA CONTEST: You should pack your diabetes medications in your check-in luggage. True or False? E-mail your answer to email@example.com and get the chance to win a prize!
Congratulations to Salvador junior Rossi! Your correct answer to the question in the August 17, 2013 column was chosen as this week’s winner in the Diabetes Trivia Contest. You will receive an e-mail on how to claim your prize.
Dr. Veronica A. Racho is an endocrinologist. The “Changing Diabetes” column commemorates the 92nd anniversary of insulin’s discovery. It aims to increase awareness on diabetes prevention, diagnosis and management. Novo Nordisk supports “Changing Diabetes.” Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. For questions or comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.