Whether it is a business or a leisure trip, travelling can be a challenge for people with diabetes. The emotional and physical stress associated with travelling can be daunting for some individuals. Though it is a manageable condition, the changes in food, weather, time zone, and living conditions can alter blood sugar levels and make diabetes management strenuous. However, with adequate preparation and appropriate self-management, patients with diabetes can travel safely.
What travel essentials should people with diabetes carry?
People with diabetes should organize and pack a kit that can be of great value in keeping their sugar levels under control and help avoid the extreme drop in sugar levels.
Travel essentials to carry include:
- Glucose meter - Ideally, diabetic people should always carry a glucose meter (or glucometer) with them.
- Changes in time zones, food, and activity levels can affect their blood glucose. They might need to check the blood sugar more frequently to monitor and make adjustments if needed.
- Weather and altitude are shown to affect the test results of glucose monitoring devices. Hence, one should read about the device or clarify all device-related doubts with the pharmacist/manufacturer before travelling.
- Oral diabetes medication - People with diabetes must pack their oral medications so that they do not miss a dose. These should be carried in enough and extra quantities to ensure that they do not run out of the medications. Other medications that need to be taken regularly must also be packed.
- Insulin pump – Individuals who use an insulin pump to take insulin shots for regulating blood sugar should make that they carry all the supporting documents including the prescriptions from the doctor during travel.
- Extra battery for the glucose meter or insulin pump – Diabetic people must carry an extra battery for glucose meters or insulin pumps.
- For a glucose meter, the battery power may be lost suddenly, and as the batteries differ across manufacturers, it is important to know the type and keep a spare in the testing kit.
- Insulin pumps provide an indication when the battery goes low, hence carrying an extra battery may not be necessary. However, carrying a spare is a good idea.
- Insulin: Diabetic people on treatment with insulin injections are advised to carry a sufficient amount of it. They must also pack an insulated bag with a few ice packs or cool bags to keep the insulin cool. It is important to read the instructions on storage or temperature conditions as insulin activity is subject to changes in temperature.
- Syringes - People using syringes must carry an ample amount so that it lasts for the entire trip.
- Test strips - One must carry enough and extra test strips as testing may be required more frequently than expected.
- Lancing device and lancets - One must carry lancets needed for the entire day of testing. Doctors recommend using sterile lancets every time they test. Therefore, patients should always pack enough lancets.
- Non-medical supplies - One must also carry a few necessary non-medical supplies such as alcohol swabs, tissues, and hand sanitizer while travelling.
- Fast-acting glucose - It is necessary to carry a small supply of fast-acting glucose, as diabetic people are at risk of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) when they use insulin or certain other medications. Glucose tablets or glucose gels are fast-acting sources of glucose which enable the body to absorb glucose rapidly.
- Glucagon emergency kit – This kit is crucial for people with diabetes as it contains glucagon for injection. It can be used in emergencies when their blood glucose level falls too low, and they become unconscious or are unable to swallow.
- Small, packaged snacks - One must always carry a packet of peanut butter, whole-grain crackers, or a fruit juice box to manage low blood sugar immediately.
- Medical identification - It is a good idea for diabetic individuals to carry a medical ID card stating that they have diabetes. This will help the emergency personnel address their diabetes needs immediately.
- Medical history - In the case of extensive travel, people with diabetes are advised to carry a copy of their health history and prescriptions. It contains the existing medical conditions, any allergies, medications, emergency contact information, and the details of their healthcare providers. The medical history can also be stored on the phone using any of the medical/health apps.
- Health insurance card - One must carry a health insurance card for any unforeseen medical emergencies that can arise. Investing in travel insurance is also advisable for such individuals.
If individuals with diabetes are travelling by airplane, they must pack all the diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag or hand baggage. It is not advisable to keep the supplies in the check-in luggage as there are chances of it getting lost or misplaced. Also, by keeping the supplies in the carry-on bag, the insulin and glucose strips can be maintained at a cooler and more stable temperature. Wearing protective clothing, comfortable shoes, and maintaining hydration will also help in preventing health complications during travel.
The holiday season is around the corner and many of us would be making travel plans. This year, people are likely to head out on road trips on account of the pandemic. Diabetes can make such types of travel more challenging but with proper planning in advance, people with diabetes will be able to relax and enjoy their trips. It is essential to remain in touch with the doctor and discuss any unusual symptoms or abnormal blood sugar readings during the travel.