Diabetes Travel Tips

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Diabetes doesn’t keep David from traveling. But he makes sure he plans ahead when he takes a trip. Learn about some of David’s tips for traveling with diabetes.


DAVID: I travel over 100,000 miles a year in my job. I travel domestically and abroad and one thing you learn with that experience is you have to be prepared when you have type 1 diabetes. You have to sort of think forward a little bit and decide what would be problems you may have. For example, you might not always get to food when you need to have it or you might not be able to take insulin
conveniently when they’re serving food, so you have to think those things through a little bit.

There’s a few things you need to prepare if you’re going to travel if you have type 1 diabetes. First, you need your insulin and you need to have back up for your insulin. You need enough insulin to carry you not only for the trip but in case there’s an unanticipated delay.

When I’m traveling I usually figure how many days I’m going to be gone. I figure out how much insulin I’ll need for those days and then I at least double it if not triple it. You never know when something is going to happen — the plane doesn’t take off, right?

If you have type 2 diabetes, the same rule applies to you. You need to take your oral medications to control your diabetes, not only for the time that you’re going to be gone but have back up in case you don’t get home on time.

Second, you need a way to assess your glucose. You need to check your control and know what your control is; that means you carry a meter and enough strips to carry you.

Third, you need a way to correct a hypoglycemic reaction, a low blood sugar. That could either be a form of rapid acting you know carbohydrates or something to eat, but make sure you have it.

Fourth, you need to have a form of identification. In case you get into trouble where you can’t help yourself, you need the help of somebody else and they need to know that you have diabetes.

When I’m taking a long plane flight where there’s going to be meal service, there’s three things I want on my person. I don’t want them overhead where I may not be able to get to them because of turbulence or something in the aisle. I don’t want them under the plane. I want my glucose tabs with
me in case I get low. I want my insulin with me so I can’t take it for the meal. And I want to have a meter with me so I can adjust and determine what dose to take.

When you start traveling over large time zones, for example, if you’re going over to Europe or Asia or someplace where the time really shifts a lot, you need to think a little bit about your diabetes and how your insulin works in terms of the timing of your insulin. So if your insulin is good for four to six hours but you change the time zone, you need to account for that.

When you’re thinking about traveling for pleasure, taking a vacation, sometimes you can really incorporate a lot of things into that vacation that are really good, sound practices for diabetes.

You can take vacations that have physical activity built into them. Go to national parks, take hikes, go out into the wilderness a little bit and use your feet. You know, not a bad idea. Sometimes you can go to places where there’s pools and oceans and the options for swimming or using a bicycle.
It’s not a bad idea to incorporate good diabetes care into having fun and into vacation.

When you’re driving in your car, a couple of good rules: First, don’t put your insulin in the glove
box, leave it there, and forget because if the car gets too hot or gets too cold you
ruin your insulin. Now you have nothing to work with and that’s a big problem.

Number two, make sure you have something to help you correct hypoglycemia. If you get low that means you need to have something that’s rapid and will correct it and you shouldn’t drive
while you do that. You should pull over, correct it, and that brings us to the third rule: have a meter.

You don’t know what’s going on unless you can check. So you need to find out when you’re safe to

If you have diabetes and you haven’t traveled a lot yet, you can get excellent advice from your healthcare team. They can give you good sound tips about how to travel safely with diabetes.
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