Guest Contributor: Bethany Taylor
It’s that time of year again! With
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s right around the corner, many of us
will be hitting the road, the airway’s, or maybe even a cruise to spend time
with family and loved ones to celebrate all we have to be thankful for. Traveling
within itself can be a challenge, but especially when traveling with diabetes.
A dear friend of mine with type 1 diabetes has had a few close calls when flying to some Thanksgiving destinations. She and her husband were traveling to New York City. She was prepared with her cool pouch for insulin vials, bag with insulin pump supplies and syringes (in case of a malfunction with the pump) and her glucose tabs. She realized as soon as she got in the security line that she had forgotten her letter from her provider regarding her need to have insulin and insulin pump supplies due to having type 1 diabetes. She began to panic but her husband calmed her down. She explained her situation to the TSA agent who appreciated and understood her situation. She remembered to avoid the “scanner” as it would fry her insulin pump. Disaster averted and fun time in New York City was had.
Here are a few tips to help traveling with diabetes go more smoothly.
First, here’s a few helpful tips
with air travel:
- Make sure to share with the TSA luggage
inspector you are a person with diabetes.
- Store your medications in your carry-on bag instead
of putting them in your checked bag and carry a letter with you from your
prescriber describing the need for your diabetes supplies as well as a list of
medications you are on to prevent any issues with security. Storing medications
in your carry on also avoids the potential of them getting lost if your checked
luggage gets misplaced.
- Liquid medications can be over 3.4 ounces (100
mL) in a carry-on bag, but you need to inform the TSA screener if any are more
than 100 mL.
- When traveling across time-zones, be sure to see
your prescriber four to six weeks before you travel. When you travel east, the
day is shorter so you may need less insulin or may need more insulin if you
travel west. You also need to check your sugar more often. If you travel from
north to south or vice versa, you likely won’t need to change how you take your
insulin. With oral medications such as metformin, timing isn’t as critical, but
you may need to skip the second dose of a twice-daily dosing when traveling
east to avoid hypoglycemia.
- When packing, be sure to include food and
supplies to prevent and treat hypoglycemia.
- Check feet daily for pressure sores.
- The CDC recommends that patients check their
blood glucose every 4 to 6 hours during air travel.
- Persons with diabetes using insulin pumps may
request a full body pat-down or visual inspection instead of going through a
- The recommended vaccines for diabetes patients
to receive are influenza, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccines. This is something
that should be addressed when visiting your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before travel.
If you are planning to do a road
trip to your destination, a diabetes kit is essential. The kit should include a
glucose monitor with extra batteries, a backup monitor for emergencies, plenty
of lancets, and a pack of alcohol/cleaning wipes. The kit should be easily
accessible but avoid putting it in the glove compartment so that it doesn’t get
too hot/cold. If you take insulin, be sure to put it in a cooling pack.
Whether you’re traveling in the
air or on the road, remember to visit your doctor ahead of time, prepare your
supplies, and wear a diabetes medical alert bracelet in case of an emergency.
Enjoy the holidays and safe travel!
Therapeutic Research. “Travel and Your Medicines.” Pharmacist’s Letter,
“Travelers’ Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travelers-with-additional-considerations/travelers-with-chronic-illnesses#table503.
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