Traveling and Flying with Diabetes

A little forethought and an ultimate travel plan can help take the undue stress out of traveling: the single most crucial factor for diabetic travelers, since it is stress that can raise blood glucose levels.

The role of doctors and diabetes educators in planning travel
A diabetic person needs to have a medical check up a few weeks before travel, giving full details about the travel itinerary to the doctor. The diabetes educator can help plan meals and medication for the diabetic traveler; an important factor if the person is traveling through different time zones and needs timely intake of medication.

The friendly pharmacist’s helping hand
The pharmacist can include the generic names and their dosages, especially oral agents for diabetes and insulin; recording the types of insulin and whether the insulin is short, intermediate or long-acting also helps. Some countries require a traveler to carry written documents from doctors, giving permission to carry medicines/related supplies, it is advisable to get a Xerox of the prescription and dosage and carry one along at all times.

Basic illness management tips: traveling and flying with diabetes

  • Testing of blood glucose levels every two – four hours
  • For travelers with type 1 diabetes, urine-testing for ketones every four hours may be required and if ketones are found, more short-acting insulin may be needed.
  • In the circumstance that the diabetic traveler is ill or unable to eat, insulin or oral agents must not be stopped. However, the reduction of the dose may be an alternative.
  • Drinking lots of fluids to control the dehydration resulting from illness can help stem the effects.
  • Those diabetic travelers experiencing difficulty in eating, can substitute their regular meal plan with drinking one cup of sugar-free fluid, per hour – water or diet pop are a good choice.

Identification for diabetic travelers
Carrying identification that details the diabetic’s condition is very important in the circumstance that the traveler is unable to give instructions. Medical alert identification bracelets/ necklaces are available, which state the wearer has diabetes or a simple information card can be used as an identification tab, detailing type of diabetes and the treatment required.

I believe I can fly: tips for air travel for diabetics
Many airlines offer special meals for a person with diabetes but it is advisable to carry some suitable snacks to make up for any flight or in-flight meal delay, or inadequate carbohydrate content in the meal provided. For insulin-dependant travelers with diabetes, it is important that the insulin they carry does not get exposed to x-rays during travel and that it be inspected manually, to retain its potency. Storage of insulin in un-pressurized baggage area of the aircraft is not advisable since it gets affected by extreme temperatures. Light activity like simple stretching exercises in the seat and moving ankles in circles, occasional raising of legs are actions that help make air travel easier for people with diabetes.