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Insulin Injections When Traveling With Diabetes

  • If you are traveling on an airplane and you need an insulin injection during your flight, follow your normal procedure -- with one difference: put only half as much air into your insulin bottle as you normally would. The air pressure is different in airplanes than on the ground. The air pressure in the cabin when in flight may cause the plunger of the needle to resist your efforts to inject air into the insulin bottle. 
  • Keep the temperature of your insulin between 33 and 80 F. Do not freeze your insulin or keep it in direct sun.
  • If you are crossing time zones, you'll need to adjust your insulin dosage. Some experts recommend taking regular insulin every four hours until your body has had enough time to adjust to the change. Once this happens, switch back to your usual insulin regimen. Talk with your doctor first, as you may need to adjust your insulin dose upwards if you travel west (longer days) or decrease your dose if you travel east (shorter days).
  • As an extra precaution to avoiding low blood sugar, do not take your insulin until you know that food is available, and always carry extra snacks with you.

Foot Care When Traveling With Diabetes

  • Pack at least two pairs of shoes so you can change shoes often if you have diabetes. Changing shoes helps prevent blisters and sore pressure points.
  • Pack comfortable shoes, socks, and a first-aid kit to treat minor foot injuries.
  • Do not go barefoot. Instead, wear shoes that are specially made for ocean or beach walking. Protect your feet at all times when you are walking by the pool, in the park, on the beach, or swimming in the ocean.
  • Do not wear open-toe shoes, including sandals, flip-flops, or others (you increase your risk for injury and infection when your toes are exposed).
  • Follow your daily foot-care regimen.

Coping With an Emergency When Traveling With Diabetes

If you are overseas and a diabetic emergency occurs and you do not know where to go, try to reach the American consulate, the Red Cross, or a local medical school. Learn certain phrases in the local language such as "I need help" or "I have diabetes, where is the hospital?" or "I need sugar."

Because the prescription laws may be very different in foreign countries, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you write for a list of International Diabetes Federation groups. Write to: IDF, 166 Chaussee de La Hulpe, B-1170 Brussels, Belgium (www.idf.org).

According to the ADA, you can get a list of English-speaking foreign doctors from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT), 1623 Military Road, #279, Niagara Falls, NY 14304 (www.iamat.org). IAMAT can be reached at 716-754 4883.

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