Preparation is key when traveling with diabetes

With the summer months quickly approaching, many people are planning vacations. Unfortunately, diabetes cannot be left at home and individuals with diabetes need to plan ahead. Before leaving, make an appointment with your physician. At this visit, hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol should be checked, and your physician should provide you with a letter stating you have diabetes. You also need to obtain copies of the prescriptions for your medications during this visit. All diabetes patients need to wear a Medical Alert Identification bracelet or necklace, and have a card in their wallet. If traveling outside of the United States, check with your local health department regarding immunizations. It is typically recommended to receive immunizations three to four weeks prior to travel.

During air travel, diabetics need to bring a carry-on bag containing all of their diabetes supplies. Extra supplies need to be packed in case of delays. Blood glucose needs to be checked more frequently during travel. In addition to the testing supplies, bring along extra snacks and items such as glucose tablets to treat a low blood sugar. Airport security needs to be informed that you have diabetes, and medications need to be labeled in a separate clear bag within the carry-on luggage. Medication needs a prescription and proper manufacturer’s label so it can be easily identified. It is simpler to bring the boxes your pills or insulin came in, because the original labels prove the medication belongs to you.

Under normal conditions, insulin can pass through X-ray machines. If insulin stays in the path of the X-ray longer than normal or is repeatedly exposed, it may not be as effective. Syringes are allowed through security only if you have insulin, as well.

If you wear an insulin pump, security must be notified. Those who wear an insulin pump may request a visual inspection in place of walking through the metal detector or being hand-wanded. The insulin pump does not need to be removed during this process. Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin with a label identifying the medication.

If an insulin injection is needed during flight, put half as much air into your insulin bottle as you typically do. The pressure is different in flight than on the ground. If changing time zones of two or more hours, your insulin injection schedule also may change. Check with your physician for specific instructions. The temperature of insulin must be between 33 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Insulin should not be frozen or in direct sunlight, as this can decrease its effectiveness. During a road trip carry a cooler to keep medication temperatures within normal range. Medications never need to be left in the trunk, glove compartment or near a window.

Anytime diabetics are traveling, they need to always plan ahead and if planning to fly, check with the airline for current guidelines. Vacations can be fun and run smoothly if you are properly prepared.

Dawn Hollaway is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and program coordinator for the Blount Memorial Diabetes Management Center.

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