Type 1 diabetes traveling tips

With careful planning, people with type 1 diabetes can travel safely and with confidence.

The holidays are fast approaching and many of us will be traveling. Preparing and packing for a trip, whether it’s by automobile, plane or train, can be challenging. For those who have type 1 diabetes, thoughtful consideration of their diabetes self-care includes packing an adequate amount of testing supplies and units of insulin for a syringe or pump. When traveling we can expect to eat different foods at different times which may affect diabetes self-management and insulin regimes. Bringing along healthy snacks that are lower in sugar, fat and cholesterol are also be helpful in these situations.

Travel tips for type 1 diabetes self-management

The first step in the planning process is to consult with your medical provider well in advance of your trip. Your doctor can verify that your blood glucose levels are controlled and that all other diabetes health-related conditions, such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and kidney function are being managed properly. It’s also imperative that you are up-to-date on your immunization shots. If you need a vaccination, make sure to get it at least one month before leaving for vacation.  

The American Diabetes Association recommends getting the following from your doctor:

  1. A letter – that explains what you need to do for your diabetes as far as medication, including a list of insulin, syringes and devices that you normally use. The letter should also identify any allergies you have and/or foods and medications that you might be sensitive to.
  2. A prescription – even though you should pack more than enough insulin, syringes, pills, etc. to last through your trip, a prescription can be a back-up in the event of an emergency.

When packing, make sure to take along at least twice as much medication and blood testing supplies as you normally would use. The American Diabetes Association also recommends packing all your diabetic supplies in a carry-on bag so you have access to your medication at all times. Make sure this bag includes:

  • Insulin and syringes needed for the trip
  • Blood and urine testing supplies (take along extra batteries for your glucose meter)
  • Oral medications
  • Other medications or medical supplies such as glucagon, antidiarrheal medication, antibiotic ointment, anti-nausea drugs
  • Your ID bracelet or necklace and diabetes identity card – in the event of an emergency, medical personnel are trained to look for a medical ID
  • Non-perishable food items such as crackers, peanut butter, fruit, juice boxes and some form of sugar (hard candy or glucose tablets) to treat low blood sugar.

Your insulin needs to be stored properly while traveling. Insulin that has been opened should be kept cool and out of direct sunlight. People with type 1 diabetes should store their injectable supplies in an insulated carrier (similar to what is used for lunches) if they know it will be exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures.  

Because it’s normal to get out of our routine when we’re on vacation or traveling, Michigan State University Extension reminds us that those with type 1 diabetes need to be diligent about checking their blood glucose levels, taking their insulin and following a healthy eating plan.       

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