Diabetes and travel

TRAVELING WHEN SUFFERING FROM DIABETES

Change of environment, new lifestyle, jet lag, different climate, change of diet, busy holiday schedule… All these factors linked to traveling are not favorable towards people suffering from diabetes. But do not despair ! Even if you are diabetic, you can still enjoy pleasant holidays. You will just have to take some precautions and to follow the advice of your doctor. However, if you are affected by unstable or complicated diabetes, it is better not to travel.

SEEK ADVICE FROM YOUR DOCTOR

As a diabetic person, the first thing to do if you intend to travel is to talk with your doctor before your departure. He/She is the only person qualified to decide if you can travel or not. If you are allowed to travel, you will be prescribed a treatment adapted to your destination and to your insulin regimen. Your practitioner will also make sure all your routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and check if you need specific travel-related vaccines. Being vaccinated against flu and pneumococcal disease is strongly recommended. Note that there are usually no contraindications to vaccination for diabetic people. Make sure your doctor provides you prescriptions and valid certificates for all the medicines and medical supplies you will need to carry or to purchase while traveling, as well as a document summarizing your health status and a medical clearance for travel. If you don’t come from an English-speaking country, you will need to carry an English version of all these documents. Moreover, your doctor will help you to prepare your trip, and give you useful advice on how to adapt your treatment to jet lag for example.

PLAN YOUR TRIP

For safe and successful holidays, you must plan your trip ahead. First of all, choose a destination adapted to your health condition, preferably a country having an adequate medical infrastructure and reliable diabetology services. If you intend to go to developing countries, be aware that you will have to bring all the drugs and medical supplies you will need in sufficient quantities, such as your insulin pen or syringes, needles, glucagon, blood sugar testing strips and spare batteries for your blood glucose meter. Don’t forget to take hydrocolloid dressings in case of blisters. Be especially careful about your insulin. As it must be kept at a temperature between 4 and 30°C, avoid putting it in the sun or next to frozen items. Keep your treatment accessible at any time. If you travel by car, put it in the glove box. If you travel by plane, carry your medicines and medical supplies in your hand luggage, with the corresponding medical prescriptions and your medical clearance for travel. You will need these documents when going through security checks at the airport (notably for your insulin pump, needles and syringes). Anticipate the delay or absence of meals during your travel by packing adequate food and snacks in your hand luggage. If there is more than a three-hour time difference between your home and your country of destination, set your watch to the new time as soon as you board the plane, and adapt your insulin schedule (as advised by your doctor). The objective is to match your new time zone immediately upon arrival. At last, make sure you are fully covered by a health insurance while traveling, and that it is adapted to your health status.

TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAYS

To prevent your holidays from being ruined by your diabetes, keep in mind the following tips :

  • Always remain organized to avoid skipping or delaying a meal.
  • During long travels by car, stop, take a break and walk every two hours.
  • Regularly check your blood sugar level.
  • Be always careful about what you eat and drink.
  • Regularly drink water in sufficient quantity to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid over-exertion, which could lead to hypoglycemia. Always adapt your activities to your possibilities and your treatment.
  • Never walk barefoot and always wear comfortable shoes, to avoid wounds and blisters on your feet, which could result in infections.

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