Diabetes should not stop you from doing the things you enjoy like travelling. Advanced planning can help to minimize emergencies that may occur away from home.
Planning ahead: Patients on insulin injection
Make an appointment with your diabetes educator or health care provider at least 4-6 weeks ahead. If you are on insulin by injections which may need to be adjusted for time zones, you will need to provide your provider with departure and arrival times both ways. Variations of “westward= more insulin; eastward= less insulin” may be used for adjusting across multiple time zones.
Patients should have more than enough of all medications and diabetes supplies to last the entire trip. Divide them into more than one of your bags and have a portion with you on your carry-on luggage. Carry your insulin with you as it may be exposed to extreme temperatures in the baggage area. All medication needs the professional pharmacy label to identify them. Also be sure you have other supplies including treatment for lows, extra food and snacks as many airlines do not provide meals.
It may be helpful to carry a letter from your health care provider stating the necessity of carrying the insulin and supplies but according to the ADA, the FAA, because of forgery concerns, no longer accepts them as adequate proof of insulin necessity.
Bring along an emergency kit which may contain extra supplies and also items needed should you get sick. Glucagon kit may be needed if you are on insulin and have severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Be sure your travel companion knows when and how to use it.
Keeping blood sugars well managed
Check your blood sugars regularly when traveling. It is suggested every 4-6 hours for safety. Follow your diabetes educator’s plan for insulin adjustments across the time zones.
Planning ahead: Patients on pumps
Plan to see your health care provider 4-6 weeks before you leave especially if your blood sugars are not well managed. You may need some advice regarding your diabetes management which may prevent acute complications while away.
You will need to carry extra supplies with you for the pump. Call your pump company and ask if they offer a loaner pump for travel in the event yours stops working. Plan to carry a supply of your previous long-acting insulin as well as your rapid in the event you need to return to MDI (multiple daily injections).
Continue with your normal routine of basal and bolus during the flight. You can change the time in your pump when you get to your destination. If the time difference is greater than 3 hours it is recommended you change the time part way through the trip ( example every 3-4 hours) and on arrival at your destination if it is a long trip.