Whether you’re taking a weekend road trip or flying off on an international adventure, traveling with type 2 diabetes requires a bit of planning for a safe and successful journey. Preparing well in advance can help ensure you have everything you need to manage your care away from home and let you focus on enjoying your trip.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider :
Let your physician or healthcare provider know that you are traveling and ask about any special insulin instructions or precautions you should take, especially if you are traveling to a different time zone. Make sure you have prescriptions for your medications and supplies in case you need to have them filled away from home. It’s also a good idea to have a letter from your provider that says you have diabetes and includes a list of your medications and supplies, as well as an emergency plan. Share this information with your traveling companions.
Do Your Homework :
You probably won’t need it, but know where to find medical care. Before you leave home, locate a diabetes physician, hospital and emergency care at your destination. If you are traveling overseas, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers publishes a list of local English-speaking doctors. Visiting a country where English is not the primary language? Learn how to say “I have diabetes” and ask for orange juice and medical care in the native language.
Pack More Medication Than You Need :
Pack twice as much medication and supplies as you need, including insulin, syringes and test strips, as well as a first aid kit and glucose emergency kit. Don’t put these items in the car trunk, which can get extremely hot, or in checked baggage, which can get delayed or lost. Keep them in a carry-on bag that travels with you at all times. Also carry your emergency instructions and prescriptions from your physician with you.
If You’re Flying, Prepare for Security Checkpoints :
At the airport, let Transportation Security Administration (TSA) representatives know that you have diabetes. They will allow you to bring more than 3.4 oz. of medications with you. Keep medications in their original packaging with your name on them, and put them in a bag by themselves for easier screening. Also have your doctor’s letter ready to show. For more information about current screening policies, visit the TSA Web site.
Bring Snacks :
Ward off low blood sugar by stashing snacks. When you’re on vacation, you may not always know where the nearest grocery store is, and at any rate, you won’t want to interrupt a tour or activity because you need to find food. Keep a supply of energy bars, trail mix, fruit and glucose tablets handy when you are on the go.
Test Blood Glucose More Often Than Usual :
Travel, different foods and mealtimes, activities and changes to your sleep schedule all can affect your glucose levels. Test them more often than you normally would, especially before and after meals.
Take Care of Your Feet :
Airplane travel can cause your feet and ankles to swell, so talk to your health care provider about wearing compression socks on the flight. Check your feet often, especially if you walk more than usual on your trip. Wear cotton socks and comfortable shoes that are broken in; if you wear sandals, don’t choose styles with a strap between the toes, as this can irritate your feet. It’s not advised to go barefoot, but if you do, inspect the bottom of your feet closely after walking to ensure there are no lesions or cuts in the skin.
Have a safe and successful trip!
Athena Philis-Tsimikas, MD, is an endocrinologist and the corporate vice president for the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute at Scripps Health in San Diego.