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Traveling With Diabetes

Whether your vacation plans involve staying close to home or crossing the globe, put as much thought into protecting your health while traveling as choosing your destination. From planning ahead to packing your bag, let’s talk about how to use your passport instead of your pancreas.

Plan Ahead

A little planning goes a long way in making your travel more streamlined. Always wear a visible form of diabetes identification (medical alert bracelet, etc.) when you’re traveling, and make sure your identification is in the language of the countries you’ll be visiting. Have a letter from your doctor on hand explaining your diabetes medicines, supplies, and allergies. Learn to adjust your diabetes medicine if you’ll be traveling across time zones.

For longer trips, be sure to see your medical team for a check-up four to six weeks ahead of travel; and for travel abroad, make sure you have the correct

What To Pack

What should you be tossing into your luggage? Here’s a handy diabetes packing list:

  • double the amount of diabetes medicine and supplies needed in your carry-on luggage.
  • glucagon kit if you use insulin
  • insulated bag and blue ice to keep insulin cool (Be sure any blue ice is completely frozen before going through airport security, as they may reject any thawed blue ice.)
  • snacks, glucose gel, or tablets to treat low blood glucose reactions
  • medical insurance card and emergency number for your medical insurance company first aid kit including: bandages, gauze, and topical antibiotic; pain reliever; medicines to treat diarrhea and motion sickness; sunscreen and insect spray

(And remember: never put your medication into checked luggage. Always keep your necessary diabetes supplies in your carry-on!)

Destination-Specific Meds

Depending upon your destination and personal medical history, consider asking your doctor about taking along antimalarial medications and an antibiotic for self-treatment of moderate to severe diarrhea. Don’t forget insect repellent and a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (with both UVB and UVA protection).

Basic Travel Tips

For longer trips, check to see if a meal will be served when you buy your ticket, and order any special meal requests in advance. Also remember that meals may not be served at times that fit into your usual schedule of meals. Keep snacks that will not spoil in your carry-on bag.

Though it is best to travel with a companion who understands your condition and what to do about it, if you are traveling alone, it may be a good idea to let someone know that you have diabetes, just in case you should have a problem.

Whether you’re going by train, plane, or automobile, request boarding help when needed, and be aware of the disability programs available to you, if you need them.

When Flying

If air travel is part of your plan, there are some things you can do to help make the journey more comfortable, diabetes-wise. If you’re going through TSA, make sure you know your rights as far as what you can bring with you and how your diabetes supplies should be handled during the screening process.

If traveling alone, tell the flight attendant you have diabetes, and keep your diabetes medicines and supplies with you—don’t store them in an overhead bin. If you’re taking injections on the plane, don’t inject air into the insulin bottle before drawing up your dose, as the air is pressurized.

Remember to get up and move around during longer flights to help prevent blot clots.

On The Road

If you’re taking a road trip, be sure to take your medication with you at rest stops instead of leaving it in a hot or freezing-cold car. Also, have snacks in your bag in case there’s a long gap between stops, and always have low blood sugar treatments on hand, just in case.

Do Your Research

Whether you’re going to a familiar city or a new-to-you country, be sure to do some research before you take off. Find the nearest hospital to where you’ll be staying, and find out ahead of time if your insurance policy covers international incidents. If you can, keep a copy of your current prescriptions on hand, in case you need a refill while on the road.

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