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Traveling with diabetes? Plan with these tips

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Holiday travel can be stressful enough, but for the many millions of Americans who have been diagnosed with diabetes, it may be especially challenging.

This recent dailyRx feature offers some helpful tips for those traveling with diabetes. The piece notes that “Traveling can disrupt meal, rest and exercise routines, all of which can make it harder to manage diabetes — a disease in which the body doesn’t secrete insulin or becomes less sensitive to it.”

As the piece notes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a long list of tips for safe traveling for those with diabetes. Among those recommendations:

  • Pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies you expect to need, in case of travel delays.
  • Keep snacks, glucose gel, or tablets with you in case your blood glucose drops.
  • Make sure you keep your health insurance card and emergency phone numbers handy, including your doctor’s name and phone number.
  • Carry medical identification that says you have diabetes.
  • Keep time zone changes in mind so you’ll know when to take medication.
  • If you use insulin, make sure you also pack a glucagon emergency kit.
  • Have all syringes and insulin delivery systems (including vials of insulin) clearly marked with the pharmaceutical preprinted label that identifies the medications. Keep it in the original pharmacy labeled packaging.
  • Find out where to get medical care if needed when away from home.
  • Take copies of prescriptions with you.
  • Reduce your risk for blood clots by moving around every hour or two.
  • Pack a small cooler of foods that may be difficult to find while traveling, such as fresh fruit, and sliced raw vegetables.
  • If you’re traveling with insulin, don’t store it in direct sunlight or in a hot car. Keep it in a cooler, but do not place it directly on ice or on a gel pack.
  • Bring a few bottles of water instead of sugar-sweetened soda or juice.
  • Pack dried fruit, nuts, and seeds as snacks. Since these foods can be high in calories, measure out small portions (¼ cup) in advance.

Also quoted in the article is David Winter, MD, the President, Chief Clinical Officer and Chairman of the Board of HealthTexas Provider Network. Dr. Winter highlighted some of the specific challenges that diabetics face in a changing environment:

Non-diabetics have a pancreas that adjusts the amount of insulin that is released into the blood stream to exactly match the amount of glucose in one’s blood. Diabetics control glucose levels with pills and/or insulin that is calculated to match an average food intake and amount of physical activity.  When food intake or physical exertion changes, the dose of medication must be changed.

For even more tips, check out these guidelines from the American Diabetes Association.

About the author

Scott Goldstein
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Scott is a former Dallas newspaper reporter. His father and two brothers are doctors, so healthcare is his family business.

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Traveling with diabetes? Plan with these tips