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Diabetes Travel Tips
Just by its nature, travel alters blood sugar, due to changes in the normal daily routine. I recently “got out there” and cruised to Bermuda. To keep my routine as normal as possible, maintain glucose control, my travel companion and I took advantage of all, the cruise offered. Exercise is the key in keeping glucose control and ultimately, complications at bay. In addition to our normal daily work-outs; 45 – 60 minutes on the elliptical for me and a 30 – 45 minute run on the treadmill or on the cruise deck for him; we also inline skated, and kayaked in the Atlantic. Despite being concerned about high blood sugar because of cruise food enhancements, creams, glazes, sauces and certainly bigger portions than normal, my sugars actually dipped. This post focuses on lessons learned and important tips for those traveling with diabetes.
First things first, maintain your routine as much as you can. Ask your destination location about work out facilities, exercise equipment, and activities to continue work-out regimen. As for controlling your diet, simply request your specific desired amount portion from your food server and chef, you’ll find they’ll be more than happy to oblige.
Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, ensure you carry enough supplies. The American Diabetes Association, in their Complete Guide to Diabetes on travel recommends doubling supplies. Life happens, your syringe can fall to the floor, your strips can be harmed by moisture, etc. Always carry scripts, from your doctor, for each supply. Scripts are necessary when your supplies malfunction; or in the case of insulin and/or medication damage due to extreme heat or cold temps during travel. That is the principle when in transit carry diabetes supplies with you at all times. This past frigid January I was reminded. My daughter and I were headed to Indianapolis for her All-Star Cheer competition. We were travelling with carry-ones. I was told by the booking travel airline representative that each person would be allowed 2 carry-on bags. I assumed my carry-ons would be, well, carried onto the plane with me. I had all my insulin and supplies and meds and toiletries in one bag along with my purse. My clothes, shoes and workout gear in my other. We arrived early since I wear an insulin pump. Arrive to the airport, train station, ship/cruise yard early to avoid security snafus and have a doctor signed script identifying you as a diabetic. The note expedites security procedures. We arrived 2 hours early at the gate for our Indi trip. Despite our early arrival, the flight was overbooked, running 25 minutes late, and, like many others on that flight, we had a connection at Boston’s Logan Airport. Tickets were distributes for each carry-on. The attendant proceeded to direct us to leave our carry-ons at the gateway. I insisted, “Excuse me but this bag contains insulin, it must come with me, I’m a type 1 diabetic”. The stewardess insisted I leave the carry-ons, despite my efforts. I quickly opened my carry-on took out my insulin, 2 tubing sets, 2 reservoirs, 2 alcohol pads, and my meds, grabbed my purse which had my glucometer and glucose tabs. Before take-off I cringed as I watched the carry-ons loaded into the cargo section of the plane. It was 7 degrees when we left New Jersey; it was 0 degrees when we landed at Logan. My insulin would have frozen, my meds harmed. Be assertive and do what you need to do, to ensure you have the supplies you need with you at all times. Be polite; try to educate others that you can’t live without your supplies. Don’t let others’ ignorance intimidate you.
Don’t forget batteries for equipment like an insulin pump or glucometer. While travelling on a Club Med vacation back in the early 90s, in Mexico, my glucometer battery needed replacement. The medical office didn’t carry the specific battery type required. Fortunately, my girlfriend had a camera battery that was the exact battery needed. I was very lucky. Through my many years living with diabetes I have learned over and over again it’s much better to be prepared than counting on luck or miracles.
Sometimes though, no matter how much you plan, you do succumb to unexpected hypoglycemic reactions. Prepare for that scenario and it won’t end up with horrific circumstance. Test frequently. Take glucose tablets, gel or whatever works best with you, to bring your BS up in case it drops. Carry them with you, always. Take along glucagon (in case of unconsciousness) as well. Communicate with your travel companion(s). Ensure they know your signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and what they need to do to counteract the situation. Don’t underestimate the emotional impact a hypo episode has on your travel companion. It’s hard for a loved one to see you in a state unlike yourself. Talk about it and thank them for helping you. Depending on the severity of your low BS, it can be an embarrassing experience. Try to learn from it. Work it out with the health care team to identify how it happened, and finally remove or avoid the culprit to reduce the chances of it happening again. Until next post safe travels and be healthy ☺ A