Travelling with Diabetes
Summer is here and nicer weather often means we may want to do some travelling. We have compilied a few things that you may need to consider when you are managing diabetes. Being prepared before you travel can save you time, money and trouble. Planning ahead is the key to a successful trip.
- Visit your healthcare provider several weeks before you leave for a check-up and to obtain a travel letter. (some countries require a letter stating that you need to carry medicines or supplies).
- Ask for a list of your medications from your pharmacist. Medications must be carried in their original container with the label from the pharmacy on it.
- Carry all insulin, testing supplies and medications in your carry-on luggage in a clear sealable bag both going and returning from vacation.
- Purchase extra supplies including blood glucose test supplies, medications, and any other supplies you may need to help manage your diabetes.
- Purchase fast-acting carbohydrate that stores well and that you can keep on you such as glucose tablets or life-savers.
- Obtain travel health insurance. Many policies will cover most pre-existing conditions, but the coverage will depend on the medical information provided and your health status. Check with your insurance provider and plan ahead to find out what criteria must be met to be eligible for coverage.
- Have some sort of identification on you that lets people know you have diabetes. A MedicAlert bracelet, necklace or watch provides this identification.
Travelling across Time Zones
For people on insulin, travelling on flights that cross more than four time zones may require a change in your insulin regime/dose to match the longer or shorter day. If travelling east, hours are lost and you may need to take fewer units of intermediate or long-acting insulin. If travelling west, your day will be longer and you may need extra units of meal time insulin if extra meals are eaten.
It is best to err on the side of caution and run your blood sugars a bit higher than too low on your first travel day. Stay on local (departure) time and schedule until your travelling is over. Once you arrive where you will stay, change to the local destination time as soon as possible.
Your diabetes educator can help you with your diabetes medication regime, or there is a website available to support you in making your decisions: https://diabeteseducatorscalgary.ca/lifestyle/travel.html
Air Travel with a Pump
If you wear an insulin pump, your pump may be affected by the metal detectors. You are not required to remove your insulin pump for screening but inform the screening officer that you are wearing one. There are recommendations from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority that will help make your travel easier:
- Arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight
- Inform security that you wear an insulin pump. You do not have to remove your pump. Do not wear your pump through x-ray or body scanners. Inform the agent and you can request a physical search, in lieu of imaging technology. Hand held medal detectors do not affect the functioning of insulin pumps or CGMs.
- If you have questions about the safety of wearing your pump through scanners, contact your manufacturer
While on Vacation
- Test your blood sugar frequently
- Stay active
- Keep hydrated
- Protect your medication from heat and extreme cold
- Protect your insulin pump from sun by covering with a towel
For more information on travelling with diabetes, visit:
Travel Tips for Diabetes from the Diabetes Canada
Air Travel and Diabetes | ADA from the American Diabetes Association
Medical Assistance for Travellers from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT)