Everything You Need To Know About Travelling With Diabetes

It is estimated that over 4 million people in the UK are living with diabetes.

Although diabetes can be considered a very debilitating condition, it should not be considered a barrier to travel. However, the need to be prepared and plan ahead is imperative. Here are some useful tips to help you along the way!

Before You Go

  • Consult a travel clinic/GP at least 6-8 weeks prior to travel to discuss vaccinations/travel medications that might be required.
  • Ensure you have enough regular medication for the duration of the trip, and extra in case of delays. Inform the airline in advance that you will be travelling with medication and carry these in your hand luggage. Also bring a letter from your GP explaining your need to carry syringes, injections, insulin and medication.
  • Purchase travel insurance – hopefully won’t be needed but it’s never worth risking a trip without (also consider an EHIC card if travelling within Europe).
  • Learn the language – simple phrases such as ‘I have diabetes’ and ‘where is the hospital?’ may be of use.
  • Obtain a diabetes ID card.
  • Note the location of local hospitals/pharmacies.
  • Have a contact number for the local embassy in case of medical emergencies.

During Travel

  • Store insulin properly – a cool pack that doesn’t require freezing or refrigeration is likely to be the most convenient and safest option.
  • Carry your insulin with you. Conditions in the hold may cause your insulin to freeze.
  • You may require snacks in between meals to prevent your blood glucose from dropping too low and so try to pack extra starchy snacks such as biscuits, cereal bars etc. Carry glucose with you at all times, glucose-tablets or Lucozade are ideal. Also, ensure cabin crew are aware you have diabetes.
  • If travelling across time zones you will need to alter your insulin regime. Four-time zones or less and there is no requirement to change your regime, more than four time zones will require some alterations. Speak with your specialist about this. Remember it is better to run slightly high for a few hours than have a hypo mid-flight.

While abroad

  • Maintain a sensible diet – a part of travelling is to experience the local cuisine but also ensure a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables; low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts and beans.
  • Be aware of alcohol – it increases the risk of hypoglycaemia (contrastingly beers and cocktails can also be loaded with sugar) therefore the preferred option would be water or a low sugar fruit juice.
  • Stay hydrated – especially in a hot country and only drink bottled water.
  • If you are travelling to a hot destination it may be appropriate to monitor your blood glucose more often as insulin can be absorbed more quickly at higher temperatures.
  • Foot care – as a diabetic your more prone to numb feet and foot infections. As such it is important to always wear sturdy footwear to protect against debris. Also, conduct regular foot checks and seek help if a problem develops.

If you need any help or advice with planning your trip around diabetes, get in touch.

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