Tips for traveling with diabetes

January 13, 2011

Tips for traveling with diabetes
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are 2.3 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. The disease is the fourth leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives, affecting about 16% of the population. Information about diabetes from Tanka friend Lifescript runs occasionally in our blog, Walking the Way of Wellness.

Your bags are packed, and you're ready to go. The last thing you want to worry about is your diabetes.

But no matter how well you stick to a daily regimen at home, things are bound to change when you're away. You eat out, your activity level increases but also becomes less consistent, and unexpected stresses can push blood sugar levels up.

We've assembled a quick guide to managing diabetes while traveling -- whether locally or internationally, for business or for pleasure. Read on for 20 smart tips on how to prepare, pack and plan your days off.

The Basics

1. Create a supply checklist

Write down everything you'll need to stay healthy to ensure that you don't forget important items, especially when you're in a rush to get out the door.

2. Keep a small travel bag with you at all times

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you keep a bag stocked with these items:

Insulin and as many syringes as you'll need for the trip (and a disposal container for storing used syringes and test strips)

Blood and urine testing supplies (with extra batteries and strips for your glucose meter)

Oral medications with the prescription labels attached (extras are a good idea)

Other medications, such as antibiotic ointment, anti-nausea drugs, etc.

Your ID and diabetes identity card, as well as your doctor's emergency number.

A well-wrapped snack pack containing crackers, cheese, peanut butter, fruit, raisins, a juice box, and some form of sugar (such as candy or glucose tablets) to treat low blood sugar levels.

A portable meal (that doesn't require refrigeration) in case of unexpected delays.

3. Pack workout clothing

That way you'll be ready to exercise, wherever you are. Most hotels have facilities for guests but require proper clothing. Ask the hotel staff or locals about safe places to walk and other active pursuits in the area.

4. Wear comfortable shoes

They'll help you walk briskly -- and ache-free -- through airports, train stations or cruise ships. Plus, once you reach your destination, use them for sightseeing on foot.

5. Don't neglect your blood-sugar monitoring

No matter how long you'll be traveling, test your blood glucose as frequently as your doctor recommends. Regular monitoring can help you catch potential problems early, thus preventing highs and avoiding lows.

At the Airport

Traveling by air can be stressful, especially if you have diabetes-related items to keep in tow.

Fortunately, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows people with diabetes to carry testing supplies and medications in their hand luggage.

Here are a few guidelines:

6. Keep anything vital in your carry-on

More than two million bags were reported lost or mishandled by the airlines last year. If your checked luggage ends up lost, you don't want to be without important medications, syringes and blood-testing supplies.

7. Tell the security screener you have diabetes and are carrying supplies

The TSA allows people with diabetes to carry these items on the plane:Insulin and insulin-loaded dispensing products (vials or a box of individual vials, jet injectors, biojectors, epipens, infusers, and preloaded syringes)

Unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin or other injectable medication

Lancets, blood glucose meters, blood glucose meter test strips, alcohol swabs, meter-testing solutions

Insulin pump and insulin pump supplies (cleaning agents, batteries, plastic tubing, infusion kit, catheter, and needle); insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin

Glucagon emergency kit

Urine ketone test strips

Unlimited number of used syringes when transported in Sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container

For more diabetes travel regulations, see the TSA website. The agency also has information about taking liquids through airport security and how best to present them.

Each airline may enforce security measures differently, so check with yours before you leave.

8. Identify your insulin and syringes with the proper manufacturer's label

You may need to prove that what you're carrying is insulin. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says you should bring the box that your insulin came in (or the plastic bag your boxes came in, if your insulin is from a mail-order pharmacy).

These packages should have a "professional, pharmaceutical preprinted label which clearly identifies the medication."

9. Make special arrangements before your flight

Ask for an aisle seat if you plan to use the restroom for insulin injections. If the flight has meal service and you're on a special diet, notify the airline at least 24 hours ahead.

If no food is offered on the flight, bring your own healthy meal on board.

10. Tell the flight attendant that you have diabetes, especially if you're traveling alone

You may need help if your blood glucose levels go too low.

11. Drink plenty of water

Dehydration is common because cabin air has a much lower humidity level than a typical indoor environment. It can cause mild discomfort, scratchy eyes, fatigue and breathing problems for people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma. Drink water to stay hydrated, but avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages throughout the flight.

To read this article in its entirety, go to 20 Tips for Traveling With Diabetes .

For more about diabetes: LifeScript
To follow LifeScript on Twitter: @LifeScript

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