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8 Tips for Traveling with Diabetes

  • Airplane take off
    Don’t let diabetes derail your vacation.
    Are you getting ready to head out of town on business or a quick weekend getaway? No matter where you’re going, your diabetes will be traveling with you, so it’s important that you plan for your trip. The last thing you want is your diabetes to impact your travel plans or prevent you from enjoying your trip. It all begins with some careful planning. Try these helpful tips to keep your diabetes under control and your travel hassle free.

  • Doctor with couple in office
    1. See your doctor before traveling.
    There are a number of very basic things you need to do to keep your diabetes under control, and those things don’t change if you’re traveling. Seeing your doctor 3-6 weeks before traveling will help you keep your diabetes under control. This will give you enough time to adjust medications if your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol control need tweaks before traveling.

  • vaccines
    2. Get vaccinated.
    If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of vaccine preventable illness such as pneumonia, flu, and the associated complications if you get sick from these conditions. Ask your doctor what vaccines you need to avoid preventable illness and keep your diabetes under control.

  • Doctor filling out prescription
    3. Get a doctor’s letter and prescription.
    Get a prescription and letter (on your doctor’s letterhead) from your doctor to carry with you. The letter should outline not only that you have diabetes and need to carry certain medications and supplies with you, and it should also include any special information you might want a provider to know in caring for you. The prescription is important because you never know when you may become separated from your diabetic medications and supplies. Consider using a national pharmacy that is able to transfer your local prescription to wherever you are traveling. 

  • pills
    4. Keep your medications with you.
    If you’re flying, it’s best to have all of your medication and supplies as they came from the pharmacy (with their labels on), as recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In addition to packing your diabetes medications and emergency snacks into your carry on, you’ll want keep them with you at your seat. Don’t store them in an overhead bin—you never know when you might need them.

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    5. Consider emergency identification.
    Many people with diabetes carry an ID bracelet, an “in case of emergency” contact (ICE) for their smartphone, or a portable electronic record. An ID bracelet needs to identify that you have diabetes so that someone helping you in an emergency can understand what’s happening, even if you’re unable to communicate with the responder. The ICE contact should be someone who knows something about your health situation. Finally, consider a portable health record that gives a provider important aspects of your care history, such as your last A1C or electrocardiogram.

  • travel tips with ra 7
    6. Pack thoughtfully.
    When packing for travel, bring more diabetes medication and supplies than you normally need. Pack your supplies in a carry-on, so they’re always available. A refrigerated gel pack and insulated bag will keep your insulin cool en route. Pack a glucagon emergency kit if necessary. Also, have snacks, glucose gel, or tablets with you in case your blood glucose drops. Plan for time zone changes, since this can change when and how much diabetes medicine you need. (Eastward travel means a shorter day and less insulin may be needed. The opposite is true for westward travel.) And finally, pack enough food to cover your entire flight time in case of delays or unexpected schedule changes.

  • GettyImages-525408989-family-on-vacation-with-suitcases
    7. Make sure you can communicate in a foreign country.
    If you’re traveling internationally, learn to express specific phrases, like “I am diabetic," in the local language. Better yet, write down simple statements that you can point to, since you may be unfamiliar with pronunciation.

  • blood sugar, diabetes
    8. Check your blood sugar more frequently.
    Changes in diet, time zones, and schedules can significantly impact your diabetes, so keep up with your blood sugar readings. Also, consider identifying a physician in the community where you are traveling to, or at least make note of where you can seek health care if you have problems.

8 Tips for Traveling with Diabetes

About The Author

Dr. Pat Bass III is chief medical information officer and an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at LSU Health- Shreveport and University Hospital. View his Healthgrades profile >
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THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.
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