10 Tips for Managing Diabetes While Traveling
July is one of the busiest months for travel. Schools out, work hours may be shorter, and extra days off for summer holidays make summer a more convenient time for many to take a well needed vacation.
Vacation should be a time to distress and reconnect with loved ones. However, the stress of traveling when you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, can make people dread the idea of leaving town.
A little planning can go a long way to help prepare you for a summer getaway.
Kathleen Wyne, M.D., Ph.D., an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes, has provided the following tips for travel with diabetes:
1. Plan ahead
- Are you staying in a hotel? Find out what amenities are available.
- Is there a refrigerator in your room?
- Is a complimentary breakfast provided?
- Is there an exercise room?
- Where is closest pharmacy and urgent care?
- If you are going somewhere for a prolonged period of time you may want to find a local endocrinologist.
- The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists: Find an Endocrinologist
- If you are traveling out of the country, consider joining the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT). Joining IAMAT helps connect you with English speaking doctors.
- If you are traveling to a place where English is not the first language, it may be helpful to learn of few phrases in the languages of the countries you will be visiting such as, “I have diabetes” or “sugar, or orange juice, please”.
- Bring a list of important contacts (name and phone numbers) for emergencies.
- Have a copy of written prescriptions for medications and supplies in case they are lost.
2. Pack everything
- Before you begin to pack make a detailed checklist of all of your diabetes medication(s) and supplies that you will need to bring on your trip.
- Bring plenty of extra. This is especially important in the event that you are unable to return home on your planned return date (i.e. cancelled flight, bad weather conditions, etc.)
3. Know the rules
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that all diabetes medicines and supplies be in their original pharmacy packages with prescription labels.
- A travel letter from your physician, listing all necessary medications and supplies, can also help when going through airport security.
- For more detailed information about TSA Special Procedures.
- For additional support go to TSA Cares.
4. Keep everything with you
- If flying, remember to take all diabetes medications and supplies in your carry-on bag.
5. Know your time zone
- If your destination is in a different time zone, make sure to contact your physician or diabetes educator before you leave for vacation. He/she can help you make any necessary medications adjustments.
- Adjust your diabetes devices (blood glucose meter, insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor) to the current time zone.
6. Plan for local foods
- Learn about the local cuisine. Are carbohydrates served as the entrée or as a side dish?
- Learn the local word for carbohydrate.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how a food is prepared.
- When in doubt, stick to the protein rich foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, etc.)
7. Always have quick acting carbs on hand
- This is necessary if you manage your diabetes with any of the following medications (all of which carry the risk of hypoglycemia):
- Sulfonylureas (Diabeta, Micronase, Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL, Amaryl, Glynase)
- Meglitinides (Prandin, Starlix)
- Glucose tablets are a great option as the don’t need to be refrigerated and have a long shelf life.
*Wearing diabetes identification is another important safety measure in the event that you have a severe hypoglycemic episode.*
8. Plan for activity
- This is especially important if you take one of the above medications. Activity increases the chances of having a low blood sugar.
- Make sure to have quick acting carbs (i.e. glucose tablets, glucose gel, or juice) on hand at all times. If you have a low blood sugar this will allow for prompt treatment.
- Keep well hydrated. Always carry a water bottle. Dehydration can raise blood sugar levels.
9. Be ready for something to go wrong
- You can only do some much planning. Being well prepared will help you better cope/manage when something goes wrong.
10. Enjoy yourself! Vacation should be fun and relaxing!
Do you have a family history of diabetes?