Friday, November 20, 2009

Diabetes Support Group Meeting

Fly Away: Travel Tips for People with Diabetes

We all received this Christmas gift from Eve, our Diabetes Educator, friend and all around wonderful woman.

With the holidays approaching, Eve brought some handouts with travel tips and since yesterday's group was small and informal, those who had traveled recently shared their experiences with the group. And we all shared both fun and scary travel stories.

The last time I went to Sweden was in 2005 and I had no problems at all, flying Continental all the way, with a change of planes in Newark.

Some people in the group had only good things to report, but others had some tales to tell of the lack of awareness of diabetic needs from both airline and security staff. One woman even had the water in her water bottle checked to make sure it was indeed water. Others had not been allowed to bring juice onboard, for example.

Some Helpful Tips:
  • Get written prescriptions for all medications and supplies.
  • Take twice as much medicine as you think you'll need.
  • Bring all medicines in their orginial prescription bottles. One woman had all her pills confiscated because she brought them in one of those pill boxes that you use to sort your pills by day.
  • Wear a Medic Alert tag or some other form of I.D. A lot of information about Medic Alert was shared because of this tip. Several people in the meeting had never heard of this great service that provides your most important medical information to first responders in case of an emergency.
  • Bring food for one day in your carry-on bag. (Some attendees said you are not allowed to bring food on airplanes any longer. I don't know how that works, so check with your airline ahead of time.)
  • Drink lots of water while in flight. (Hopefully, you will be allowed to bring water onboard or they will have water on the plane.)
  • Depending on where you are going, don't forget extra batteries for your glucose testing meter and insulin pump, if you use one.
Insulin and Travel:
  • Insulin pump users take intermediate and regular insulin plus syringes in case of pump breakdown. I would add this: Find out how to convert to intermediate insulin from your doctor. I have had to this and it isn't all that easy. Somewhere I have a note with a formula worked out in case of pump failure.  
  • While insulin should be kept in the refridgerator, you can keep it at room temperature for one month. I always keep a bottle in my glucose meter bag and it works great for me. I just have to remember to keep it out of the sun. Insulin should not be left in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Some prefilled pens and Humulin insulin cartridges have different storage needs, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before traveling. Some of these can only be stored for seven days after puncture. And you must keep them in an insulated carrier.
  • If taking insulin in flight, less air needs to be injected into the bottle.
When traveling across time zones, keep this in mind:
  • Traveling East will shorten your day and decrease insulin needs. Some people decrease their insulin dose by 20% on the day they travel East.
  • Traveling West will lenghten your day and increase overall insulin needs.
Since I got my insulin pump, I traveled to Sweden twice and had no problems because of the continuous background, or basal, insulin delivery that is, for me, the best feature of the pump. I imagine it would be much more difficult without a pump.

Then it said in the handout: Most important rule is to avoid Hypoglycemia.

To this I would like to add: If you use insulin, bring plenty of Glucose tablets, particularly if you travel abroad. I know many people don't like them and there are other sweets, but who knows what may be available in a foreign country. If your blood sugars crash, glucose tablets will raise your sugars fast and they don't melt in the heat like chocolates and some candies do.

Finally, I noticed something in the handout that I didn't know: Medicare does not cover treatment outside of the US.

Oh well, there is always something new to learn.

The quotes were from handouts from the Lifeskills Teaching Guide, 1998 Diabetes Education Society, Inc.


  1. Holy cow that was very informative! Pat on the back and a big hug.

  2. My poor step dad has had Type 1 for a little over 10 years now and he *still* has problems regulating his levels. He's been on a pump for about the last 5 and just got updated to a new one. It's scary all there is to think about and the sticky situations one can get in by forgetting, being in a situation one wasn't prepared for, and then other people's ignorance. Then you throw in time differences in travel and such... I'm glad there are classes and groups to help diabetics manage all this, Inger.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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