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Tips for Traveling With Diabetes

11 November 2010
For people with diabetes, going on vacation or traveling for business requires extra planning. Changes in meal patterns, activity levels, and time zones can affect your blood sugar levels. Here are some tips to make traveling easier.

Before You Leave

Make an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your travel plans.
Get twice as many supplies needed to travel and bring extra prescriptions and a letter from your doctor explaining that you have diabetes.
If you need immunization shots, plan to get them three to four weeks before your vacation. Some of these shots can upset your blood sugar levels.
Be prepared. Know what facilities are available within the region that you will be traveling.

What Should I Bring With Me?

Bring your doctor's name and phone number and keep it with you at all times.

Bring a list of current medicines and keep it with you at all times.

Always carry and wear medical identification that states that you have diabetes.

Keep medicines, syringes, and blood sugar testing supplies in your carry-on luggage. Do not check these supplies with your luggage in case it is lost.

Also, the cargo hold is not heated or insulated well, so medicine and supplies can be damaged.

Take enough medicines and medical supplies to last an extra week in case you get stranded or stay longer than you planned.

Have a traveling companion carry some of your medical supplies, if possible.

Always carry some type of sugar source in case you develop hypoglycemia.

Inform the airlines, cruise ships, and tour guides in advance that you have diabetes. Most airlines and cruise ships will provide special meals.

Test your blood sugar more often than usual.

At the Airport

Steps you can take to make your trip through airport security hassle-free include:

Make sure you tell security that you are diabetic and that you are carrying medical supplies. Your supplies can be taken through security check points, but they must have a prescription label on them

All of your supplies should have a proper manufacturer's label.

Syringes will be allowed through security if you have insulin as well.

If you are wearing an insulin pump you must notify security. They will visually inspect the meter. You must request that the meter not be removed.

Insulin Injections

If you are traveling on an airplane and you need an insulin injection during your flight, follow your normal procedure -- with one difference: Put only half as much air into your insulin bottle as you normally would. The pressure is different in airplanes than on the ground.

Time zone changes of two or more hours may mean you need to change your injection schedule. Check with your doctor for special instructions.

Keep the temperature of your insulin between 33 degrees F and 80 degrees F. Do not freeze your insulin or keep it in direct sun.

On the Road Foot Care

People with diabetes require special foot care. Follow these tips:

Pack at least two pairs of shoes so you can change shoes often. Changing shoes helps prevent blisters and sore pressure points.

Pack comfortable shoes, socks, and a first aid kit to treat minor foot injuries.

Do not go barefoot. Instead, wear shoes that are specially made for ocean or beach walking. Protect your feet at all times when you are walking by the pool, in the park, on the beach, or swimming in the ocean.

Do not wear open-toe shoes, including sandals, flip-flops, or others (you increase your risk for injury and infection when your toes are exposed).

Follow your daily foot-care regimen.

Coping With an Emergency When Out of the Country

If an emergency occurs and you do not know where to go, try to reach the American consulate, the Red Cross, or a local medical school. Learn certain phrases in the local language such as: "I need help" or "I have diabetes, where is the hospital?" or "I need sugar."

This article was first published in http://diabetes.webmd.com on 8 March 2009.

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