Traveling with Diabetes

It is estimated that 55 million people will travel this holiday season. Traveling with diabetes may present questions such as, what should I bring, how do I travel with my supplies and medications, how will traveling affect my glucose numbers, what do I do in an emergency?

What do I need to bring?

When traveling be sure to bring a sufficient amount of medications as prescribed with extra in the event of any issues. It is helpful to know what pharmacies may be close to your destination. In case of lost luggage, misplaced supplies you should have your providers contact information in the event that you need to have prescriptions sent to a local pharmacy.

If you are on medications which may lower your glucose levels it is recommended to travel with snacks on hand in case treatment of low glucose is necessary or meals are delayed. Snacks for treatment of low glucose are those which will rapidly increase glucose levels. Sugary beverages such as juice are a great choice as they are quickly digested and may raise glucose values quickly. In addition candy with sugar but without added fats are great options. Pre-packaged candy in individual packets are easy to transport and have a known carbohydrate count. In treatment of a low glucose you want to treat with 15 grams carbohydrates and repeat the process for glucose that has not have risen. Snack options to carry on hand in the event of a delayed meal are those with a carbohydrate source as well as protein to provide a more delayed moderate glucose value. Snack options may include fruit, veggies, crackers, nuts.

How do I travel with my medication and diabetes supplies?

When traveling it is recommended that medications/supplies be carry-on rather than checked with luggage. You may request a letter from your provider as to what you may be traveling with i.e needles, insulin, meter, sensors, insulin pump supplies. These supplies are approved as carry-on items. When wearing a CGM/insulin pump it is important to avoid the full-body scanner and opt for either the metal detector or a pat-down. This is to mitigate the risk of damage to these devices due to exposure of advanced imaging technologies. It is important than when traveling you let TSA know what you may have in your baggage.

Keep medications in their bottles so as to more easily identify. Medications, specifically insulin and non-insulin injectable medications may need to avoid extremes of temperatures. Cooling cases are available to store medications that are sensitive to temperature. It is important to note you never want to freeze these medications.

How will travel impact my glucose levels?

Time changes, stress as part of traveling, activity level, eating out and change in sleep may all impact glycemic control. Having a plan as to when to take medications if you will be traveling across time zones is important to discuss with your HCP ahead of any trip. Following your HCP’s recommendations as to frequency and timing of glucose checks may help to identify low/high glucose and/or mitigate the risk of them from happening.

What to do in an emergency?

  • Talk with your provider as to emergency plan in the event of a low/high glucose.
  • Have providers contact information.
  • Know your target glucose values.
  • Be sure to stay hydrated.
  • Increased activity may increase risk for low glucose. Be sure to assess glucose levels for any symptoms of low glucose. Symptoms may including shaking, sweating, dizziness, irritability, dizziness.

Lisa Levinson is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at Overlake Medical Center.

Overlake offers one-on-one education as well as two-part classes to help people learn practical skills to manage diabetes, including medication, meal planning, glucose monitoring and more. Classes are taught by certified diabetes educators. Please see your healthcare provider for referral.