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Traveling with Diabetes

Por Lic. Nina Nazor Robles* -

Whether traveling for business, education, or pleasure, know all the tricks for controlling your diabetes and for avoiding any mishaps.

This is especially important because you will be away from home and your doctor. Make sure to plan your trip with your doctor before leaving. He/She can help you design a specific treatment plan for you. Take into account how many days you'll be away, what you'll be doing at what time of day, and what you'll eat. If you’re on insulin, plan for time differences and synchronize your injections accordingly. For traveling to some countries, you will need vaccinations about a month beforehand. Get a letter from your doctor stating you have diabetes.

Get prescriptions for all the medications and supplies you need and are taking with you or may need to pick up when you arrive at your final destination. Respect the rules established by the relevant authorities. In the United States, you have to notify air transport safety inspectors or personnel in advance if you will be traveling with items used for the treatment of diabetes. The insulin or pills you take with you, as well as the lancets, syringes, and monitors must be visible and clearly labeled. The items must all be in their original packaging. You will also have to present the letter and prescriptions you obtain from your doctor.

What to take:

  • Two glucose monitors, packed in different suitcases in case you lose one.
  • Syringes, lancets, reagent strips, and sufficient medication in case of an emergency, or if your trip ends up being longer than you expect.
  • All the medication you might need, with the corresponding prescriptions.
  • Some form of easily carried sugar such as candy, glucose tablets or gel, or sugared soft drinks to prevent or treat hypoglycemia.
  • Snack food such as granola bars, crackers or sandwiches, in case you don’t have food on hand when you need it. You can’t take fresh food with you if you are traveling abroad.
  • A plan drawn up by your doctor for the steps to follow if you don't feel well during your trip.
  • Medications for controlling vomiting or diarrhea and a small first-aid kit containing things like analgesics, band-aids, gauze, and sticking plaster, etc. Any cut or infection must be treated immediately because it will raise your blood sugar. If it does not heal in a day or two, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Medical insurance papers, if you have insurance. Carry emergency contact information.
  • An identification tag or card. This is very important. It should state your name, which type of diabetes you have, the medication you use, and whom to contact in an emergency.
  • Pack everything you need for managing your diabetes in your carry-on luggage. Don’t put it in checked baggage. Always keep it with you.

If you are on insulin:

  • Make sure the insulin is kept in the best state possible in well-sealed, thermally-insulated bags. Take at least 2 special bags for transporting it.
  • Always carry sweets with you in case you get hypoglycemia.
  • If you walk a lot during the day, watch for hypoglycemia symptoms, especially at night.
  • If you inject yourself with insulin while on the plane, remember that the cabin is pressurized. Be careful to get the dose right when you load the syringe.

As long as you plan properly before and during your trip, you can enjoy being in a different place and trying out local food without any problem whatsoever. Have fun!


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