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Diabetes: Travel Tips - Topic Overview

Travel can make it hard to keep your blood sugar within your target range because of changes in time zones, meal schedules, and types of foods available.

Whenever you need to see a doctor away from home, let him or her know you have diabetes. And always wear medical identification. In an emergency, medical identification lets people know that you have diabetes so they can care for you appropriately if you are unable to speak.

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In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, to answer a question about the link between prediabetes and diabetes. Q: At my last checkup, my doctor told me I have prediabetes. Does that mean I'll ultimately develop diabetes? A: Almost everyone who develops type 2 diabetes develops prediabetes first. But not everyone who has prediabetes...

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General travel tips

When you are traveling:

  • Use a travel agent who knows the needs of a person with diabetes. The agent can arrange for special meals or other special travel needs.
  • Take extra diabetes medicine, insulin and injection supplies, high and low blood sugar treatments (including a glucagon kit, if you have one), blood sugar meter batteries, test strips, and lancets. You may not find your regular supplies wherever you travel.
  • Double your normal amount of needed supplies for short trips. For long trips, have enough extra supplies to last for 2 weeks more than the length of your trip.
  • To keep your blood sugar at your usual level, try to eat and take your medicine as close to your regular schedule as you can.

Car travel

When you are traveling by car:

  • Have snacks and drinks with you. Keep sugar-free drinks and drinks with sugar in an ice cooler.
  • If needed, store your insulin in the cooler so that it will stay at a more constant temperature. Don't let the insulin touch the ice.
  • Keep your blood sugar meter at room temperature. Don't leave it in a hot or cold car or in the sun.
  • Walk a few minutes every 2 hours to improve the blood flow in your legs.

Plane travel

When you are flying:

  • Check with your doctor, if needed, about changing your medicine dose and timing if you will travel across three or more time zones.
  • Stay up to date with airport security rules. When you get ready to go through security, tell the officer that you have diabetes and are carrying diabetes supplies with you. Insulin pumps may set off alarms.
  • Pack your diabetes supplies in your carry-on bag. Luggage can get lost and supplies damaged by the temperature extremes in the baggage area. You will need medical identification or a doctor's prescription for your needles and syringes to be allowed through airport security.
  • Put your insulin bottle (vial), if needed, into a small, wide-mouth, cool, empty thermos if you are not sure that temperatures will stay in a range that is safe for your insulin.
  • Put in half the air you usually add to the insulin vial, if needed, to adjust for altitude air pressure changes if you draw up your insulin while flying.
  • Get up and walk every hour or so. This will help blood flow in your legs and will make sure that your insulin works properly.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 26, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

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