As the holiday season begins to kick into high gear and in honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, I want to take some time to focus on traveling. If you or someone you know has diabetes, it’s important to consider additional preparations to make before driving or flying – no matter the distance.
Before getting behind the wheel, you should always check blood glucose levels and pack snacks that you can eat in a pinch. Blood glucose levels should be above 100 before traveling and should stay above 100 in transit. Be mindful of any symptoms you may have while driving or riding. If at any point you feel the effects of low blood sugar, such as confusion, fatigue, lightheadedness, or sweating, it’s critical that you pull over in a safe area as soon as possible. When the car is parked, have a snack that will help your body return to healthy glucose levels. Good choices include whole wheat crackers and cheese, unsalted almonds and dried cranberries, an apple, or a peanut butter protein bar.
If you’re traveling for longer distances, for an extended period of time, or to a new and unfamiliar location, consider these five helpful tips:
- Contact your insurance company to find out whether or not you’ll be covered during your trip. If not, make plans to get covered.
- Make a list of essential items (prescription medications, syringes, pen needles, etc.) to pack. If you’ve been managing your symptoms for years, you likely have a mental list of these items, but it’s helpful to reference a cheat sheet. Once you’ve made your list, make a copy for a family member or friend to keep on hand and remember to stock up and pack the items. It may be helpful to bring a doctor’s note that states your condition and explains why you need to travel with medications.
- As you pack, take care to label everything. Organize the items according to a consistent system that makes sense to you—the goal is to know where everything is, so that in case of an emergency, you’re able to access what you need without digging through other, unrelated items.
- Bring double the number or amount you need of any given item (including medication!) on your list. When flying, extreme temperature fluctuations in luggage holds may destroy insulin or glucometers. Therefore, insulin and diabetic medication should not be checked and instead, kept in a carry-on bag. If you are embarking on a long journey, pack glucose tablets, which provide the quickest way to combat dangerously low blood sugar levels.
- Carry copies of your prescriptions. If you have to fill a medication at a pharmacy you’ve never been to, you’ll save a lot of time with the necessary paperwork ready to go. Of course, make sure to bring your medical ID bracelet as well. If you’re traveling alone, mention to the person sitting next to you or a cabin crew member that you’re diabetic, in addition to wearing your bracelet. This can save valuable time in case of an emergency before your bracelet is spotted.
Once you’ve put in the effort to set up a travel plan, you’ll ensure a smoother trip without all the stress of being away from home. Whether you’re jet setting off to a faraway adventure or simply returning home for the holidays, I wish you and yours a safe and healthy journey.