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Let’s Chat… Travelling with diabetes this festive season.

Having diabetes adds complexity to planning a well-deserved holiday. Changing your schedule, time zones, increased or decreased activity, eating on the go or trying new foods can affect your health. You will want to be ready for anything. But don’t stress! We’re here to make it easy, with a review of everything you will need for hitting the roads, skies, seas, or rails.

Before travelling, make a doctor’s appointment and be sure to¹

  • Create a plan with your healthcare provider for treating your diabetes while traveling.
  • Get any immunisations or extra prescriptions.
  • Get a letter explaining that you have diabetes and what your treatment includes. It could come in handy at security checkpoints, pharmacies, or with other healthcare providers while you are traveling.
  • Leave your diabetes testing supplies, equipment, and medicine in its original container with prescription labels clearly visible for security checks at airports. 
  • Call the airline, railroad, or cruise ship ahead of time and ask them if they have special meals for people with diabetes and if they are able to refrigerate insulin.
  • Make a list: Include your doctor’s contact information, all the medications you take, and instructions for what you need in case there is an emergency.

Pack Smartly¹,²

  • Bring extra equipment and medication. How long will you be away? Now, add another 2 weeks worth of supplies to the pile, and you’ll be comfortably prepared for anything. 
  • You’ll need a carry-on. All (and we mean all) of your medicine, syringes, meters, test strips, insulin and pump supplies should stay with you. Not only is it convenient, it’s safer, since cargo holds are usually not climate-controlled.
  • Pack enough snacks to keep your blood sugar level in range.
  • You will probably be walking a lot more than usual, so pack comfortable shoes and socks for your tired feet.                                                                                 

Changing time zones²

  • When traveling west, your travel day gets longer. When traveling east, your travel day gets shorter.
  • If you are on insulin or oral medications, you will most likely need to adjust your treatment schedule – including snacks and meals – while you’re en route to your destination.
  • Generally, a longer day could mean that you need more food and more medication, and a shorter day could mean that you need less of both. Check your blood glucose level more often to help you stay close to your target range.

While you’re on the go make sure you:

  • Limit sitting for long periods - stand up and stretch or walk around for a few minutes every hour.
  • Check your glucose levels more often than you normally would.
  • Pay attention to your feet. Change your shoes often to avoid blisters, and check for blisters often.
  • Wear protective shoes at the beach or pool, especially if you have issues with your feet related to diabetes.
  • If you’re not sure what’s on your plate or in your glass, ask. It’s important to know how many carbohydrates you’re eating per meal.
  • Always wear a medical ID that lets others know what type of diabetes you have.

You’re all set! Now all that’s left to do is… enjoy your holiday!

  1. Clinical Diabetes. Flying with Diabetes. Available at: http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/21/2/86.full. Accessed June 30, 2015.
  2. Diabetes UK. Travel. Available at: Https://www.diabetes.org.uk/FAQ/Travel-questions/#anchor_4961. Accessed August 2014, 2015.

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