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15 Must-Follow Tips for Traveling with Diabetes

Traveling with diabetes requires careful planning and preparation, whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Before diving into the various travel considerations, let's quickly refresh our understanding of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

What's the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes: An autoimmune condition where the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin and require daily insulin injections or an insulin pump to survive.

Type 2 Diabetes: A metabolic disorder where the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin. It's often linked to lifestyle factors and can sometimes be managed with diet, exercise, and oral medications, though some people may also require insulin.

Both types require careful management, especially during travel. Now, let's look into our recommended 15 travel considerations for people with diabetes.

1: Plan Your Diabetes Management Strategy

If you know that you have diabetes, you need to consult with your healthcare provider or a travel health specialist such as in Away Clinic. They can help you create a tailored travel plan, considering your specific needs for Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. 

This is especially important if you're planning to visit regions with different climates or altitudes, which can affect blood sugar levels.

2: Pack Essential Diabetes Supplies

Pack more diabetes supplies than you think you'll need. This includes:

  • Insulin and syringes/pens (for Type 1 and insulin-dependent Type 2)

  • Blood glucose meter and test strips

  • Glucose tablets or gel for hypoglycemia

  • Any oral medications (for Type 2)

For longer trips, consider doubling your usual supply to account for unexpected delays or loss.

3: Navigate Airport Security with Confidence

Inform security officers about your diabetes and any medical devices. Keep medications in their original, labeled containers. Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can usually go through scanners, but you can request a manual inspection if preferred.

4: Organize Your Luggage Smartly

Always carry your diabetes supplies in your hand luggage to prevent loss or exposure to extreme temperatures in checked baggage. Consider dividing supplies between different bags as a precaution.

5: Monitor Blood Sugar Levels Frequently

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics should check blood sugar levels more frequently during travel. Changes in routine, diet, and activity can affect glucose levels unpredictably.

6: Adjust to New Time Zones Carefully

When traveling across time zones, gradually adjust your insulin or medication schedule. Type 1 diabetics may need to consult their doctor for a detailed plan to avoid gaps in insulin coverage.

7: Use An Insulin Pump Correctly Especially If You're Crossing Time Zones

If you use an insulin pump:

  • Carry backup supplies in case of pump malfunction

  • Adjust the pump's clock to match the new time zone upon arrival

  • Be aware that changes in cabin pressure during flights can affect insulin delivery

8: Maintain Healthy Eating and Hydration Habits

Research local cuisine at your destination. Carry healthy snacks for times when suitable food may not be readily available. Stay well-hydrated, especially when flying or in hot climates, as dehydration can affect blood sugar levels.

9: Secure Proper Insurance and Learn Key Phrases

Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. For international travel, learn key phrases like "I have diabetes" and "I need sugar" in the local language.

10: Store and Transport Insulin Safely

For those who take insulin (Type 1 and some Type 2):

  • Use insulated bags or cooling cases to keep insulin at the appropriate temperature

  • Be aware that extreme temperatures can affect insulin effectiveness

11: Prepare for Blood Sugar Fluctuations

Be prepared to treat both high and low blood sugar episodes. Carry fast-acting carbohydrates for lows and know how to adjust insulin or medication for highs, following your doctor's guidelines.

12: Stick to Your Routine for Diabetes Care When Traveling

Try to stick to your usual schedule of blood sugar testing and medication as much as possible. Keep a log of your readings and any adjustments made during your trip.

13: Equip Yourself for Emergencies

Carry a list of emergency contacts, including your healthcare provider's information. Research local emergency services and healthcare facilities at your destination.

14: Create Backup Plans for Insulin Delivery

For pump users, be prepared to switch to multiple daily injections if necessary. Carry syringes or insulin pens as a backup.

15: Protect Your Health with Proper Vaccinations

Vaccinations are crucial for all travelers, but especially for those with diabetes who may be more susceptible to infections. Essential vaccines for traveling to Asia and Africa include:

Additionally, ensure your routine vaccinations are up to date, including:

  • Influenza (flu)

  • Pneumococcal (especially important for diabetics)

  • Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis)

  • COVID-19 and boosters

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can generally receive these vaccines, but always consult with your healthcare provider before getting any travel vaccines.

By considering these factors and working closely with your healthcare team, you can enjoy safe and healthy travels while effectively managing your diabetes. Remember, thorough preparation is key to a successful and worry-free journey.

For those residing in Arizona, you can get a detailed travel health plan and access hard-to-find vaccines at Away Clinic. Their expert team can provide personalized advice and necessary vaccinations to ensure you're fully prepared for your international adventure, whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.


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