Traveling with Diabetes
Traveling Safely With Type 2 Diabetes
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“Have type 2 diabetes, will travel” can be your motto if you plan carefully to ensure your safety throughout your trip. Traveling can disrupt your regular diabetes management routine, but with some advance preparation you can stay healthy and enjoy your vacation — whether you’re getting away for the weekend or traveling abroad. The key is to tailor your planning to where you’re going and the length of time you'll be away.
If you’re planning a longer trip or a trip abroad and you’re not a seasoned traveler, take a test run, says Tami Ross, RD, LD, CDE, past president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and author of What Do I Eat Now? A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right With Type 2 Diabetes. “Go away for the weekend and see what went well and what you need to do differently for a bigger trip.”
Seasoned traveler or not, you'll want to check off all the boxes on this to-do list:
Get the OK from your doctor.Make an appointment with your doctor to be sure your type 2 diabetes is under control. Give yourself enough time before your departure date in case your doctor wants to adjust your medications and see if the changes are working well before your trip. If you’re traveling abroad and need immunizations, get them at least a month in advance in case you have a reaction and need time to recover, the American Diabetes Association advises. Research doctors and hospitals at your destination should you need them during your trip, Ross says.
Get a written copy of your type 2 diabetes care plan.Ask your doctor for a letter that details your type 2 diabetes treatment plan along with duplicate prescriptions for your medications. Both will be invaluable in case of an emergency.
Wear a medical ID tag.In an emergency, such as a severe episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an ID bracelet or necklace will alert medical personnel of your type 2 diabetes.
Research healthy food options at your destination.Look for restaurants that post their menus online so you can choose wisely or call ahead to see if the chef will accommodate special meal requests. Almost every restaurant is willing to serve gravy, sauces, and dressings on the side. If you're taking a cruise or heading to a resort, find out if you can request diabetes-friendly foods in advance.
To avoid spending your vacation searching for a drugstore, follow these tips for packing wisely:
Do a double take.“Take twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need,” says Rose Mader, RN, CDE, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This way, you won’t run out if your trip gets extended unexpectedly. “Extra travel supplies won’t go to waste,” she says. Simply take the extras home with you.
Keep your supplies close at hand.Pack your type 2 diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag so you have easy access to them at all times, particularly on your way to and from your destination. You don’t want to put these supplies in checked luggage that could get lost or delayed, Mader says.
Place your type 2 diabetes supplies in a separate pouch.If you’re flying, you can take insulin and other medical liquids that are more than 3.4 ounces on board a commercial airplane, but you’ll need to remove them from your carry-on bag during airport security screenings to show them to officials. Check the Transportation Security Administration website for the latest information about traveling with medications before your departure, Mader says.
Pack for safety and comfort.Also include:
- Glucose tablets and an emergency glucagon kit for low blood sugar
- Healthy snacks, such as peanut butter crackers and protein bars, in case a meal is delayed and you must eat on a schedule
- An extra pair of comfortable shoes: “You may be doing extra walking when you travel, and you want to be sure you don’t get blisters,” Mader says.
Traveling Safety Tips
Take these additional precautions for safe travel with type 2 diabetes:
Alert those traveling with you.Loved ones may already know how to respond if you have a diabetic emergency, but if you're traveling with a more casual acquaintance or a group of people you don't know, be sure to tell your companion or group leader that you have type 2 diabetes and explain the signs of low blood sugar and how to treat it, Mader says. “You need to set up community support around you,” she says.
Account for time changes.If you'll be crossing time zones, you may need to revise your type 2 diabetes medication schedule. “If you go east, the day is shorter. If you go west, the day is longer,” Ross says. “Talk with your doctor before you leave about the best times to take your medication when shortening or lengthening the day.”
Check your blood sugar more frequently when away.If you'll be trying new foods or eating differently than you do at home, check your blood sugar 90 minutes after you eat. “You’ll have a better idea how your travel diet affects your blood sugar and what adjustments you may need to make to your medications,” Ross says.
Video: Did You Know - Safety Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes
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