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Diabetes: Travel Tips

Overview

Travel can make it hard to keep your blood sugar within your target range because of changes in time zones, meal schedules, and types of foods available. It's important to take extra medicines and supplies. Bring treatments for high and low blood sugar, such as quick-sugar foods and a glucagon kit. And try to eat and take your medicines as close to your regular schedule as you can.

If you need to see a doctor away from home, let the doctor know you have diabetes. And always wear medical identification. In an emergency, this lets people know that you have diabetes so they can care for you if you can't speak.

Car travel

These tips can help you stay safe while you travel by car.

  • If you are the driver, take care to help prevent low blood sugar.
    • Check your blood sugar level anytime you think it may be low.
    • Carry glucose or sucrose tablets or other quick-sugar foods with you at all times.
  • Do not drive if your blood sugar is low.

    Eat something to raise your blood sugar. And make sure it has risen to your target range before you drive.

  • Try to stay on your normal schedule.

    Eat and take your medicine as close to your regular schedule as you can.

  • Take snacks and drinks with you.

    Keep sugar-free drinks and drinks with sugar in a cooler.

  • If you use insulin, store it in a cooler.

    This will help it stay at a more constant temperature. Don't let the insulin touch the ice.

  • Carry extra medicine and supplies with you.

    For short trips, take double your normal amount of diabetes supplies. For long trips, have enough extra supplies to last for 2 weeks more than the length of your trip.

  • Keep your blood sugar meter at room temperature.

    Don't leave it in a hot or cold car or in the sun.

  • Wear medical identification at all times.

    In an emergency, your medical ID will let people know that you have diabetes so they know how to care for you.

  • Get out and walk a few minutes every 2 hours.

    This will improve the blood flow in your legs.

Air travel

These tips can help you stay safe when you travel by plane.

  • See your doctor before your trip.
    • Ask for a letter stating that you need to carry diabetes supplies. This may help when you go through airport security.
    • If you'll travel across three or more time zones, ask about changing your medicine dose and timing.
  • Pack extra medicine and supplies.

    For short trips, take double your normal amount of needed supplies. For long trips, have enough extra supplies to last for 2 weeks more than the length of your trip.

  • Pack your diabetes supplies in your carry-on bag.

    Luggage can get lost. And supplies may be damaged by the temperature extremes in the baggage area.

  • Know what to do when going through security.

    When you get ready to go through security, tell the officer that you have diabetes and are carrying diabetes supplies with you. Tell the officer you'd like to have your diabetes equipment (such as an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor) checked by hand instead of going through an X-ray or scanner. Follow the instructions provided by your machine's manufacturer.

  • If you use insulin, be prepared.
    • Put your insulin into a small, wide-mouth thermos if you're not sure that temperatures will stay in a range that is safe for your insulin.
    • If you draw up your insulin while flying, put in half the air you usually add to the insulin vial. This will adjust for altitude air pressure changes.
    • If you normally use an insulin pump, think about switching to insulin injections during your flight. The change in air pressure may alter how the pump delivers insulin. Also, you may not be allowed to use all of the pump's features during the flight.
  • Wear medical identification at all times.

    In an emergency, your medical ID will let people know that you have diabetes so they know how to care for you.

  • Get up and walk every hour or so.

    This will help blood flow in your legs. And if you take insulin, walking will make sure that your insulin works as it should.

International travel

Traveling to other countries can mean changes in time zones, meal schedules, and types of foods available. This may make it hard to keep your blood sugar within your target range. The following tips can help you prepare for travel abroad.

  • Find out which immunizations you need.

    Get immunized at least 3 to 4 weeks before you travel. These shots can increase your blood sugar for a short time.

  • Visit your doctor if you take insulin.

    Ask for a letter stating that you have diabetes and need to carry syringes and other supplies with you at all times. Also, ask for an extra prescription for your insulin. You may need both to pass through customs with your supplies.

    Carry prescriptions for all of your medicines and supplies. Ask your doctor to use generic names for your medicines.

  • Pack extra medicines and supplies.

    You may not find your regular diabetes supplies where you're going. So take everything you need, including extra test strips, lancets, and batteries for your blood sugar meter.

    • Take double your normal amount of diabetes supplies for short trips. For long trips, have enough extra supplies to last for 2 weeks more than the length of your trip.
    • If you take insulin, pack a small disposable container with you to hold your used lancets and needles. Wide-mouth plastic soda bottles or water bottles work well.
    • Pack a supply of over-the-counter medicines (ones that don't affect blood sugar levels) to treat minor illnesses such as a cold.
  • If you're flying, pack your diabetes supplies in your carry-on bag.

    Luggage can get lost. And some supplies can be damaged by the temperature extremes in the baggage area.

  • Know what to do when going through security.

    When traveling by plane or any form of travel that requires screening, tell the security officer that you'd like to have your diabetes equipment (such as an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor) checked by hand instead of going through an X-ray or scanner. Follow the instructions provided by your machine's manufacturer.

  • Wear medical identification at all times.

    In an emergency, your medical ID will let people know that you have diabetes so they know how to care for you.

  • Be prepared for language challenges.

    Get a phrase book, a translation app, or some other type of aid that will help you express your needs if you travel to a country where English isn't the main language.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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Related Links

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