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Traveling with Diabetes

Top tips for happy travelers

Whether your next vacation consists of driving to see your state’s natural treasures, crossing the ocean in search of exotic sites, or just enjoying the view from your beach chair, your diabetes shouldn’t get in the way of a good time. With some prep, planning, and smart packing, you can help keep your blood sugar steady and maintain a healthy lifestyle from the moment you leave to your safe return. In addition to checking with your diabetes care team before you go, these tips will help get you on your way:

Over-pack your supplies

You can debate about slipping in a spare pair of fancy heels, but when it comes to your medications and blood-testing equipment, bring at least twice as much as you’ll need, says Dawn Sherr, RD, CDE*, spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. You can’t predict misplaced supplies or travel delays, so it’s smart to have extras just in case. Also falling into the “better-safe-than-sorry” category: Carry an identification card (or wear a medical bracelet) that says you have diabetes; get a letter from your doctor that lists the medications you take, devices you need (syringes or glucose meters), and any allergies; and bring extra prescription scripts (for an emergency refill). “Bring a list of any other medical conditions or medications you’re taking – it helps to have that information in one spot, if you need to see a doctor,” adds Sherr.

Keep diabetes supplies handy

That means not in the trunk if you’re driving, and not in your (even less-accessible) checked luggage if you’re flying. In the car, store insulin, glucose meters and testing strips in an insulated bag to keep them cool, dry and working well; insulin in particular can lose strength if it’s left to cook in the heat of your glove compartment or in direct sunlight on the dash. (Extreme cold can also compromise insulin’s effectiveness.) For air travel, load your carry-on with all your diabetes needs (it’s allowed). To help pass through airport security more smoothly, keep medications, insulin and any medical devices in their original pharmacy-labeled packaging and place them in clear, sealable bags. For more airplane tips and rules, visit the Transportation Security Administration and the American Diabetes Association websites.

Stash en-route snacks

road tripping with diabetesIn case of delays on the runway or road, string cheese, peanut butter crackers, or a fresh banana are all good snacks to add to your carry on bag or car cooler. Also, toss in plenty of glucose tablets as a quick-acting source to treat low blood sugar; jellybeans or hard candies work, as well. A few extra in-flight tips: Remember that there aren’t many jokes about airplane food anymore, because there isn’t much served on planes, and plan accordingly. If your flight does offer food, make special meal requests when you make your reservations or at least two days before departure. And, if you use insulin shots, consider time zone changes – “a difference of two or more hours may mean you need to change your injection schedule,” says Sherr. Check with your doctor before leaving for special instructions.

Drink more on beach vacations

More water, that is. “Dehydration is a risk for anyone on very hot days, but if you have diabetes, you’re even more prone,” says Sherr. “When blood sugar levels are too high, your body tries to eliminate excess glucose through the urine; more frequent urination can leave you dehydrated – add on the heat, and it’s a double whammy. Drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids such as water, seltzer, or sugar-free iced tea; and go easy on alcoholic umbrella drinks.”

Check blood sugar often

Maybe you’re taking a break from your typically active life to just relax, or perhaps you’re spending your vacation touring villages and cities, doing sports, or even sampling local cuisine, any changes to your normal routine can affect glucose in unexpected ways, according to Sherr, so test frequently to stay on target. Test your levels before and after meals, especially if you’re not feeling well.

Teresa Dumain is a New York-based health writer. Her work has appeared in Prevention, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Reader’s Digest and EverydayHealth.com. Dumain is a paid contributor for The DX.  All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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