Traveling With Diabetes
Having diabetes shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you want to do. Keeping your diabetes in stable control will help with being able to remain active and to travel. Depending on where you are going and the amount of time you will be away, here are some things to think about before going on a trip:
General Travel Advice
- Before you go
- Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor well in advance of leaving.
- Get lab-work done and make sure your medications are working well.
- Get written prescriptions for any medications you may need to have filled while you are away and a letter explaining any specific instructions for your medications and syringes if you need them. Also, include any allergies or sensitivities you have to foods and medications and contact phone number for your primary care physician.
- Have your vaccinations updated, especially if traveling to foreign countries.
- Pack extra medication, syringes and blood sugar testing supplies with you (generally twice as much as you think you’ll need).
- While you’re gone
- Keep a stash of emergency snacks with you such as crackers, candies, peanut butter, fruit, fruit juice.
- Wear a medical ID tag or bracelet.
- Avoid going barefoot even at the beach or a pool. Check your feet and legs for wounds often, especially if you are doing a lot of walking or hiking.
Advice for air travel
- Plan extra time to get through security at the airport.
- You can request special meals low in carbohydrates, fat, sodium, etc. Just be sure that you do so several days in advance.
- Always keep your medications in a carry-on bag and with you at all time, including any prescriptions that you may have. Keep in mind that prescription laws vary based on state and country.
- For more information on flying and medications: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures
You may need to check your blood sugar more frequently if traveling through multiple time zones, jet lag may make it hard to tell if you are having symptoms of hypo or hyperglycemia.
- If you have to inject insulin during the flight, be careful not to inject any air into the insulin bottle as the changes in pressure may make drawing up insulin very difficult.
Advice for traveling abroad
- Learn to say I have diabetes in the language spoken there, or “I need sugar, or juice please”.
- If you’d like a list of English speaking doctors abroad, you can contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) iamat.org or 716-754-4883
Traveling with insulin
- Insulin keeps longest when stored in a refrigerator, but when traveling it’s okay for it to go without being stored in a refrigerator.
- Make sure you are not keeping it somewhere that it’ll get too hot or too cold such as a car trunk or in a backpack in the heat. If insulin gets very hot or frozen it’ll lose its potency. Always check to see that the medication is not changing consistency, color or getting cloudy if it was clear to begin with.
- Look for travel packs at a pharmacy or online that can be brought with you outdoors if you will be in heat for a long time.
- If you have to get more insulin when you are away, try to stick with the brand you already use. Also keep in mind that in the US, U-100 insulin is used not U-40 or U-80. If you have to get U-40 or U-80 insulin you will need a different syringe.