Summer Travel Smarts for Diabetes

From the WebMD Archives

Vacation should equal rest and relaxation -- or, if you prefer, sightseeing and adventure. Having diabetes means you'll need to take a few precautions, though.

Step one: Talk to your doctor.

"I like to speak to them about what they should pack, how to store their medications, and how to prepare for any emergencies" related to high or low blood sugar, says Deena Adimoolam, MD, an assistant professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

She also asks patients about where they're going and the length of their trips, so she can help them prepare.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Start a detailed packing list. Adimoolam recommends you take twice as much medication as you think you'll need, just in case you get stuck and are away longer than expected. Always bring meds in their original pharmacy containers so that everything is clearly labeled. You may also want to take a prescription with you.

If you use insulin, you know that pens and needles or vials and syringes are a must. You may also need a cooling wallet to protect your insulin from heat. Most types don't do well above 86°F, so check with your doctor about your brand.

You'll also need your glucose monitor, lancets, and testing strips as well as snacks and hard candy in case your blood sugar drops too low. All of these supplies must be easy to find at all times -- so if you're flying, keep them in your carry-on bag.

A pair of quality shoes -- whether you'll be pounding the pavement or taking walks on the beach -- is also a must to protect your feet.

Check Yourself Often

Vacation often means doing lots of physical activity -- like going for a hike or doing fast-paced sightseeing -- and eating foods you normally don't. So you'll need to keep extra tabs on your blood sugar levels.

Changing time zones? That means you'll be eating at different times than you would at home. You may also need to adjust your routine if you're used to taking insulin first thing in the morning or before bed. Go over all of this with your doctor before you leave.


Know How to Get Help

Get some info from your health insurance company about your coverage, especially if you're leaving the country, Adimoolam says.

If you go to a place where a foreign language is spoken, learn a few phrases, such as "I need help" or "Where's the hospital?" Carry the phone number for the American consulate as well, Adimoolam says.

Ask Your Doctor or Diabetes Educator

Am I healthy enough to travel?

How might changes in temperature or air pressure affect my medications?

Should I pack a glucagon emergency kit?

What medications other than those used to treat diabetes should I pack?

Do I need any vaccinations?

Will you give me a letter that says I need to carry certain medications and supplies?

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on March 24, 2016



American Diabetes Association: "When You Travel."

Deena Adimoolam, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and bone disease, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

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