Take the Stress out of Traveling With Diabetes

DIABETES CARE|Jun.30, 2019


You don't have to let diabetes hold you back from your passion for new sights, exotic tastes and meeting new people by visiting favorite destinations. With modern technology like the FreeStyle® Libre glucose monitor in hand and a plan in mind, traveling with diabetes doesn't have to be stressful.

So go ahead and book your trip — just remember to add these tips your to-do list to ensure that you have the vacation of your dreams.

Talk With Your Doctor About Your Trip

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you visit your doctor and get copies of your prescriptions, in case you lose them, and a letter describing your diagnosis and your treatment needs. Be sure to ask about any adjustments you should make to your treatment to accommodate your new locale and planned travel activities.

Prepare to Share Some Personal Information

It's often a good idea to let the people you're traveling with know that you're traveling with diabetes in case you have a medical emergency. You can also wear a medical identification bracelet, which can alert emergency medical staff of your condition.

It's also a good idea to let the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) know about your diabetes before you arrive at the airport to help security go smoothly. (You should at least let TSA officers know that you have diabetes before they begin the security check process.) If you prefer to be more discreet, there's a disability notification card that you can fill out and hand to the TSA employee performing your security check to let them know that you have diabetes.

Keep Your Supplies Close By

Your insulin and supplies are essential items that you should have access to at all times, so make sure you don't check these items. Keep them in your carry-on bag. All of your supplies, equipment and medications are allowed through the security checkpoint, but they'll have to be screened. Make sure that you declare these items and separate them from your other belongings before screening begins.

Liquid medications — such as insulin — are exempt from the TSA's 3-1-1 rule, and while they require an extra layer of scrutiny, you shouldn't have trouble bringing them on the plane. Don't forget to bring plenty of these supplies — more than enough for your trip — and keep them in the pharmacy bottles they came in.

If you're wearing an insulin or continuous glucose monitor, you won't have to remove it to go through security. But because X-ray machines can damage your device, the TSA recommends you ask for a pat-down inspection.

If you're using a continuous glucose monitor, make sure to bring its charger. If you will need to test your glucose using fingersticks, make sure you pack something that will work as a makeshift sharps container for used needles and lancets. The American Diabetes Association recommends a hard pencil case.

Keep Your Insulin Cool — But Not Too Cool

Many people worry about how to keep their insulin cold on an airplane. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, all you need to do is bring an insulated bag with a cold pack. However, make sure the cold pack isn't actually a freezer pack, which could freeze the insulin and weaken it. And don't store extra insulin in your checked luggage, the Joslin Diabetes Center says, because it could get damaged by the extreme temperatures of the cargo hold.

Be Ready to Check Your Blood Sugar

Flying affects people in various ways. Long waits in the airport without access to diabetes-friendly food might cause one person's blood sugar to crash, and the stress of flying may send another's soaring. The key is to check your levels a little more often than you usually do and to equip yourself with the tools to manage whatever circumstance you find yourself in. Stay stocked with a steady supply of healthy snacks, and make sure to pack some glucose pills or gels, just to be safe. A continuous glucose monitor can be especially helpful on a flight — you can keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels without having to prick your fingers in close quarters.

Remember: You control diabetes, not the other way around. So get out there and explore the world.