Tips for Traveling with Type One Diabetes
The holidays are just around the corner. Many diabetics may be traveling from one city to another to be with loved ones. During the year, people may also travel for business or vacation purposes too, and an extra effort for safe travels with diabetes should be ensured for both cases.
Before traveling, you need to makes plans such as booking flights, booking hotels, packing the essentials and finally confirming that you have your passports and other credentials. Just like you plan your travel, you need to plan your diabetes treatment and blood sugar monitoring for your travel as well. The information below is for guidance only. You should to contact your healthcare providers for more detailed information prior to your journey.
Here are a list of things you should do to be prepared for when traveling with Type One Diabetes:
Visit Your Doctor
Before embarking on your trip, you should plan to visit your doctor/endocrinologist for a checkup, ideally a couple weeks before your trip. The extra time will allow your doctor to complete their diagnosis of your health. During the visit, you need to inform you doctor about upcoming travel plans and request a letter stating that you have type one diabetes. Your doctor should consider your situation, offer to refill your medication and give you specialized advice to ensure your health is upheld during travel.
Plan Your Snacks & Meals
When you have type one diabetes, it can be difficult to get a healthy meal while traveling, suited to your specific situation. A majority of airline food-courts serve meals that are less healthy, and less suitable for people with type one diabetes. If you plan on purchasing a meal at the food-court, make sure you have your insulin easily accessible to counteract the extra carbs you may intake.
It is also important to ensure that when you are booking your flight, the airline will be able to provide you with healthy meals during the flight. You will need to inform the airline of your medical situation beforehand for them to also plan ahead.
Pack Vital Documents
Since traveling with type one diabetes can be a hassle, especially if disruption of treatment is experienced, it is important to pack vital documents and carry them with you. Important documents should include a letter from your doctor and additional prescriptions for your diabetic supplies in case you forgot something or need more on short notice. Remember to bring additional supplies and insulin in case of an emergency during your travel. Of course, your passport and/or ID, and your tickets are also vital documents that you should also have on-hand.
Pack a Carry-On Bag
Being a type one diabetic, you need to have a carry on bag with you when traveling. Inside of your carry-on, place your diabetes supplies in a smaller bag (like a ziplock or grocery store bag) in case you need to remove it and show security. It is important to ensure that all medications, including test strips, insulin, pump supplies, needles and other diabetic-related supplies are not packed in your checked luggage. Checked luggage can get lost. What would you do if you were high, needed insulin, and your bag was lost? You’d be SOL, stuck at an airport, searching for water, taking lots of bathroom breaks, and praying for your luggage to arrive quickly. Take my advice, just carry it all with you in your carry-on.
Carry a juice-box (or two) in your carry-on as well. Since you’ll have that doctor’s note, security will understand that it is a ‘medical necessity’ and will allow you to bring it through airport security.
It is also important to note that when the plane reaches higher altitudes, it creates a chilly atmosphere in the lower level of the plane that is not good for insulin. The prescribing info for Novolog specifically states, “Do not freeze NovoLog® and do not use NovoLog® if it has been frozen.” And it says it all bold-y like that, so we know they mean business. The same kind of wording can be found on Apidra, HumaLog, Lantus, and Levemir.
Take Time Zones into Account
If your travel will involve crossing over time zone lines, you should calculate it into your meal and insulin needs. It can become especially difficult when traveling overseas, as the time change also messes with your body’s clock and meal schedule. You should have already informed your doctor, and he/she could give you better understanding of what to do. Crossing time zones can be tricky as you’ll need to make insulin adjustments. You could also use an online calculator to enter your travel details and calculate your results.
When I have traveled overseas, I have kept the time settings on my insulin pump, meter and continuous glucose monitor the same until after I land. Depending on the duration of your trip, you may/may not want to change the times on your devices. When traveling with type one, my general rule has been “if the trip is less than two days, I keep my time settings the same and simply adjust my insulin as they are needed. If my trip is more than a couple of days, I will make the necessary time adjustments, eat according to the location’s time schedule, and adjust it again once returning home.”