How to Prep for Air Travel with Type 1 Diabetes
This edited excerpt is from The Savvy Diabetic – A Survival Guide (reprinted by permission):
Here are some tips for traveling away from home if you have Type 1 diabetes:
Security check points and TSA rules
Before you fly somewhere, learn the rules for transporting medications and supplies. If travelling during high-alert times, be aware that regulations may become more stringent. Remember that insulin is a fluid, and syringes, insulin pumps, and CGMS are devices that may cause concern at the gate.
While it is generally considered safe to put your insulin, insulin pump, CGM receiver, and medicines through x-ray devices, the alarms may trigger with your pump, meter, and receiver. Whenever I go through security screening, I disconnect my pump and place it, my meter, and my CGM receiver in the plastic bins. I usually also tell the gate agent that I wear an insulin pump because I am diabetic.
You can also opt for the pat-down.
If you are travelling in a non-English-speaking country, write down these words in the language of your destination: “I have diabetes. I wear an insulin pump. I carry syringes to take insulin, which is my medication. I wear a device to monitor my blood glucose.”
Carry a travel letter from your doctor, and labels for supplies and meds. I also carry a script from my doctor for syringes and insulin, just in case.
Carry-on vs. checked bags
Be sure to keep all your essential medications, supplies, and medical equipment in your carry-on bag. On a recent trip, the airline lost my checked suitcase. The airline found my baggage the next day, in Hawaii. They delivered it to me 24 hours after my flight. Fortunately, it was on the flight home, and all my back-up supplies and extra pump were in my carry-on.
Pack snacks and low blood glucose treats or glucose tabs, as flights and food service can be delayed. For both shorter and longer flights, bring more food than you think you will need.
If you require chargers for your pump or CGM, check the power specifications for your travel destination. You might need to bring special power adapters with you.
Leave a FedEx box of supplies (including an extra pump, if you have it, CGM supplies, extra chargers, and any hard-to-get medications) with a friend or in your home. Just in case you lose your supplies and/or your reserves, someone should have access to replacements ready to ship. With the FedEx box ready to go, you can have your friend send it to a major hotel nearest you.
Make a list
Pack a list of medications and allergies, and contact information for your emergency contacts and medical team. Keep a copy in your luggage, one in your wallet, and one on a flash drive or in the cloud. Make a copy of your insurance card(s) and driver’s license, as well.
In the U.S. we usually measure blood sugar by mg/dL whereas much of the rest of the world uses mmol/l. To convert mmol/l to mg/dL, multiply the number by 18. To convert mg/dL to mmol/l, divide by 18 or multiply by 0.055.
Successful travel with Type 1 diabetes comes down to preparation. Invest time in the initial planning and you greatly improve your chances for a smooth trip.
If you would like to buy The Savvy Diabetic – A Survival Guide, you can do so at thesavvydiabetic.com/buythebook.
This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity.
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