A Little Extra Planning Can Assure a Safe and Fun Vacation
On a trekking expedition in Europe, a young man with diabetic
neuropathy -- nerve damage in legs, feet, and hands related to diabetes --
develops ulcers on his feet while hiking through wet farmland. Moisture
contaminated with bacteria is absorbed through the ulcers, causing an acute
The result: a shortened vacation, five days in a hospital in
Europe, and several weeks on antibiotics at home.
Does the light touch of a bed sheet make your feet burn? Does your heart sometimes race when you’re resting? Do you have problems with sexual arousal?
As different as these symptoms are, they can all have the same cause: diabetic nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy. About half of people with diabetes develop nerve damage. The two most common forms are:
peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nerves that serve the farthest reaches of the body, such as the legs and hands;
"It was the last kind of trip he should have signed up
for," says travel medicine expert Winkler Weinberg, MD, director of the
International Travel Medicine Clinic, which serves Kaiser Permanente members in
Weinberg says the case is an extreme example of the way a
chronic condition like diabetes can wreak havoc on vacation fun when the proper
precautions are not taken.
With summer rapidly approaching, Americans are planning their
trips to the mountains, ocean, and foreign shores. But for individuals with
chronic conditions such as diabetes, a little extra planning should be
anticipated to make sure vacations are safe and healthy.
"If you have diabetes, there isn't anyplace you can't
go," says Paula Yutzy, RN, a certified diabetes educator and director of
diabetes education at Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
"It should not stop you if you are prepared."
Whether traveling to Switzerland or a nearby seashore, patients
with diabetes are advised to bring a sugar source. "They should have with
them some form of sugar to treat insulin reactions -- peanut butter, a juice
box, or glucose tablets," Weinberg says.
And what about those long car rides, cramped in the car?
"If patients with diabetes are driving long distances, they need to stop at
rest stops and get up and walk," Yutzy tells WebMD. "If they are
sitting for a long time it can contribute to poor circulation in their
Endocrinologist David Bell, MD, suggests taking an aspirin for
its blood-thinning properties before a long car or plane ride. "As long as
the patient does not have allergic or other adverse reactions to aspirin, it
can help prevent blood clots in the legs," says Bell, who is professor of
medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine.
Bring extra food, too. "People may think they are going to
stop at the next rest stop, but if they have a flat tire, they may not make it
there," Yutzy advises. "You have to have emergency food in the car so
that you can avoid a low blood sugar reaction."
Individuals who travel with insulin should keep it in a cooler
-- or at least be very sure not to let it get hot. Leaving insulin on a
dashboard in the hot sun can be disastrous. "Anything over 86 degrees will
destroy it," Yutzy says.
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