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Traveling With Diabetes

Image for traveling with diabetes Diabetes is a serious, chronic condition—one that requires constant monitoring and, oftentimes, daily medicine. You cannot put your diabetes on hold, even when you are on vacation. But having diabetes does not mean that you cannot enjoy a vacation. It just means that you have a little more planning to do.

Making an Appointment

Before you travel, it is a good idea to see your doctor. Schedule a medical exam to make sure your diabetes is in good control. Make your appointment early enough so that if your diabetes is not in good control, you have some time to work on it. Also, ask your doctor to write a prescription for insulin or any diabetes medicines that you use. Always take more than enough medicine with you. However, you should also have the prescription with you in case of an emergency, such as your medicine getting lost or stolen.

Ask your doctor to write you a letter, too. The letter should state that you have diabetes and what you need to do for your condition. The letter should list insulin, other medicines, syringes, glucose monitors, or any other medicines or devices that you need. In addition, if you have any food or drug allergies, have your doctor list them as well.

Packing Wisely

When you pack for your trip, bring at least twice as much medicine and blood-testing supplies as you think you will need. Put at least half of the supplies in a carry-on bag that you carry by hand onto the plane. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests that you pack your carry-on with the following items:

  • All the insulin and syringes that you will need for the entire trip
  • Blood and urine testing supplies
  • All oral diabetes medicines
  • Any other medicines or medical supplies that you are taking or may need, including batteries for medical devices
  • Your regular ID and your diabetes ID card
  • A well-wrapped, air-tight snack pack of crackers or cheese, peanut butter, fruit, juice box, and some form of sugar, such as glucose tablets or hard candy

For the latest information on what is allowed in a carry-on for people with medical conditions, visit the US Transportation Security Administration's website.

Going to the Airport

In today’s world of heightened security, you will need to be a little more prepared when traveling via airplane. Here are examples of items you can safely take with you once they have been checked by the security officers:

  • Insulin and devices to dispense the insulin, such as preloaded syringes
  • Unused syringes to go with your medicine
  • Disposal container for your used syringes and test strips
  • Other supplies, such as blood glucose meters and test strips
  • Emergency kit containing glucagon if you have low blood sugar

It is a good idea to explain to the security officer that you have diabetes and have your supplies with you. Some issues that may come up at the airport include:

  • If you are having symptoms of low blood sugar, be sure to tell the security officer right away so that you can get the help that you need.
  • Also, explain to the officer if you have an insulin pump attached to your body. If you would rather be patted down than walk through the metal detector, tell the security officer.

Arriving at Your Destination

If your trip leads you to a different time zone, calculate in advance when to take your insulin shots or medicines. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you plan your medicine schedule. Keep in mind that eastbound travel across time zones means a shorter day, in which case you may need less insulin. Westbound travel, on the other hand, means a longer day, which may mean you will need more insulin. Keep your watch set to your home time zone until you land. This will help you keep track of your schedule while you are traveling through changing time zones.

Test your blood sugar soon after landing, as the feeling of jet lag may interfere with your ability to tell if you have low or high blood sugar. If you are going to be more active on vacation than you are at home, this can cause your blood sugar to drop. Make sure to adjust your insulin accordingly if your activity level increases or decreases. If you are touring around, wear comfortable shoes and do not go barefoot. Check your feet for blisters, scratches, or cuts at night and get medical attention if you notice inflammation or infection.

Wherever and whenever you travel, make sure to always carry some food with you and glucose tablets or hard candy. Having diabetes means you have to be a little more prepared. But, you can still have fun!

  • American Diabetes Association

    http://www.diabetes.org

  • Transportation Security Administration

    http://www.tsa.gov

  • Canadian Diabetes Association

    http://www.diabetes.ca

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Fact sheet: Air travel and diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/know-your-rights/public-accommodations/air-travel-and-diabetes.pdf. Accessed February 26, 2013.

  • Passengers with diabetes. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/passengers-diabetes. Updated January 28, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2013.

  • Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/travelers-disabilities-and-medical-conditions. Updated February 21, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2013.

  • When you travel. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/when-you-travel.html. Accessed February 26, 2013.