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Traveling with Diabetes

traveling with diabetes
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Any chronic medical condition can make traveling difficult, but diabetes poses a few particularly unique challenges. It is a condition that can fluctuate based on your blood sugar, and thus your schedule and diet can be impacted. When you are on the road, you may be exposed to new foods and it may be hard to maintain consistent routines.

But don’t think it can’t be done. Traveling with diabetes takes a good amount of planning, but this is one medical condition that shouldn’t stop you from seeing the world. In this article, you will find some important tips that you can use if you are planning on traveling with diabetes.

Research and plan

This starts with talking to your primary doctor as well as a doctor at a travel health clinic, who will be able to provide you with an idea of how prevalent diabetes is at your destination country and what’s available locally in terms of treatment. In addition, you should do a bit of independent research to see if you can find diabetic travelers’ accounts for your destination. This way, you will have an idea of what to expect based on someone else’s previous experience.

You will want to research the following:

  • Whether diabetes is prevalent or not at your destination. In addition, how is it commonly treated there? What is the access to required medications and insulin?
  • Common foods that are eaten there. This will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of diet and how much you will have to regulate it.
  • A few basic phrases in the local language. How to explain your diabetes, how to ask for a doctor, how to explain that you have a medical emergency, etc.
  • Differences in medication and insulin. This may relate to dosage and concentration as well as brands available. We will recommend in the next point that you bring your own supplies, but you should know what to expect if you need additional emergency supplies.

While you may not be able to find concrete answers for all of these items, you should be able to get decent mileage between a travel health doctor, online resource sites like Diabetes.org, and travelers’ accounts on blogs and message boards.

Get your blood sugar in check before you travel

Your blood sugar should be in control before you travel. It should not be fluctuating wildly. If you can’t get it in control, then you need to see your doctor or a specialist that can work with your diabetes. Traveling when you do not have your blood sugar under control could lead to even more complications once you’re on the road.

Travel with your own supplies

You should bring any medication and insulin that you use on a regular basis with you on your trip. In fact, bring double the supply that you would normally need, just in case. As we mentioned above, you should also know what local standards are like and what kind of medication will be available (also just in case).

Be prepared to deal with jet lag

No one is a fan of jet lag, but it can be particularly difficult if you have diabetes. Disruptions in you daily schedule can throw off your blood sugar as you deal with new meal times. You should talk with a diabetes educator ahead of time to help you plan insulin doses if needed. Obviously, if you are not traveling across multiple time zones, this is not an issue.

Pay more attention than usual to your blood sugar

You should plan on testing your blood sugar more often than you do at home. Also, be prepared to deal with dips and spikes. It is a good idea to travel with a variety of snacks that you are already familiar with – snacks that you can use in a pinch, especially when you don’t have access to the appropriate foods.

If you’re not sure, ask

If you are trying a new food for the first time, don’t hesitate to ask to see what ingredients are in it. This goes back to what we said in the first point: research and plan. Learning a bit of the local language will make your trip better for multiple reasons, but it is especially helpful when you have a medical condition and you need certain information on a regular basis.

Know what you can and can’t bring on the plane

The American Diabetes Association has a good resource on diabetes and air travel. We would recommend checking it out before heading to the airport. It will help you plan and it will answer the most common questions you may have about what you can and can’t bring on the plane as someone with diabetes.

If you have any of your own tips for traveling with diabetes, please leave them in the comments below.

Photo credit: flickr user WoofBC

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