I’m soon to travel to a developing nation for a meeting. Getting ready seems to take lots of time; making sure visas are secured, getting required immunizations, purchasing medications for treatment of traveler’s diarrhea and general first aid as well as obtaining flights, places to stay and potential guides for some additional trekking. But extra planning is needed when a person with type 1 diabetes goes on a trip – particularly out of country!
Here are some travel tips to share with people with diabetes:
Take twice the usual supplies for the time away
That includes vials of insulin (or pens), pump and sensor supplies, strips for a glucometers, as well as a second glucometer – and do not forget the ketostix!
Take prescriptions in case medications are lost
Be aware that many medications are not available in other countries.
Review how insulin doses may be impacted by changing time zones
Discuss a plan that is individualized and agreed upon.
Write out a back-up plan in case of pump failure (if using an insulin pump)
Pump companies can also be contacted for loaner pumps for travel in case of pump failure. Make sure the patient can program the loaner pump and provide the patient with a download of their present settings.
Obtain a letter from the prescribing physician
The letter should state that the person has diabetes and will need specific supplies. While not required, it is a prudent step.
Take all medication in a carry on
If the individual is traveling with a companion (always a good idea), split the medical supplies so each person has some in case even a carry on is lost. When touring, remember to watch for temperature changes – taking a Frio pack for trips in hot climates is easy and light to keep insulin cool. If the temperature is frigid, consider wearing insulin close to the body in inside pockets.
Ask the individual to inform TSA of their diabetes
This will help TSA (Transportation Security Administration) understand the need for supplies.
Test blood glucose often
A change in routine always requires additional checks and balances!
Have lots of easy treatments available
Glucose tablets, shot blocks and dried fruit are easy to carry and quickly absorbed. Avoid juice which can spill, get too cold and/or too hot!
Wear medical identification
The wrist alert bracelet is the most recognized location for emergency personnel to check for health conditions. Fashion jewelry or a leg tattoo may be fashionable, but not as well recognized in an emergency situation.
There are several helpful websites to help travelers with diabetes to prepare for their adventure. Encourage the individual to read through the following as a review.
Planning ahead, checking off the list of supplies and bringing way more than the individual thinks they will need helps to keep the trip safe and enjoyable!
About the Author:
Cox is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She has been a certified diabetes educator for over 25 years and served as an assistant adjunct professor for 14 years, teaching in areas of sports nutrition and exercise physiology. Currently she works for providence medical group in Missoula, Montana and consults on diabetes technology nationally.
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