Summer begins in just a few weeks. When I was in school, I so looked forward to the last day of school and the start of a long, leisurely summer. Now that I’m working, I no longer have the whole summer off, but, like many of you, I’ll be taking some vacation.
What are your summer plans? Do your plans involve travel?
Whether you head for the mountains, the beach, or perhaps another country, I hope you have a great time. Sometimes, though, people with diabetes are hesitant to travel. They worry about their diabetes control, or their supplies, or what to do if they get sick away from home. Fortunately, with a little planning, there’s no reason you can’t head for faraway lands (or the beach) just because you have diabetes.
If you’ll be vacationing out of state or out of the country, chances are you might be traveling across time zones. This isn’t really an issue if you take diabetes pills, but it may affect your insulin regimen. Thanks to insulin glargine (brand names Lantus and Basaglar) and insulin detemir (Levemir), two long-acting insulin analogs, making adjustments is quite easy, and may not even be necessary, since these insulins essentially work for 24 hours. However, if you have any questions or concerns about your drug schedule, be sure to talk with your physician or diabetes educator ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to check your blood glucose levels more often than you usually do until you adjust to the new time zone.
Speaking of medicines, if you’ll be traveling to another country, talk to your physician about any possible vaccinations you might need. These usually need to be given well in advance of your trip.
As we all know, flying regulations have become stricter since 9/11. If you plan to fly this summer, make sure you bring a letter from your physician that states that you have diabetes and must carry certain supplies for treating it. Always carry your drugs and diabetes supplies (including your meter, test strips, and ketone strips) in your carry-on bag, and bring your insulin, syringes, and other prescriptions in their original, labeled containers. If you’re not certain what you’re allowed to bring on the plane with you, contact the Transportation Security Administration at www.tsa.gov for more information.
When it comes to eating and flying, keep in mind that most domestic flights no longer offer meals. You’ll most likely be offered a snack of pretzels or peanuts and a beverage. Once again, be prepared. Bring snacks on the plane with you. Granola bars, crackers and peanut butter, fruit, and sandwiches are good choices. If you use insulin or a medicine that puts you at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), make sure you have treatment with you, such as glucose tablets, glucose gel, a juice box, or nonchocolate candy (gum drops or jelly beans, for example). In fact, always carry hypoglycemia treatment with you, whether you’re traveling or not.
Once you arrive
Ahhh — you’ve finally reached your destination and are ready to switch to vacation mode. There are still a few things to keep in mind. First, don’t expose your insulin, pills, meter, or strips to heat (or cold) or light. For example, if you’re at the beach, don’t leave supplies in a hot car or out in the sun. Keep things cool and dry. Store supplies in a cool, insulated container if you need to.
Second, if you plan to go sightseeing and will be walking a lot, make sure you bring comfortable, sturdy shoes or sneakers. (For more information on finding the right shoes, see the article “How To Choose Footwear.”) Break in new shoes well before your vacation to minimize the risk of blisters. And if you do get a blister or a cut, treat it promptly to avoid any foot problems.
Third, carry a copy of your prescriptions with you and make sure you know how to reach your physician or a local physician who treats diabetes in case you become ill while you’re away. If you’re not traveling with your family, let at least one other person know you have diabetes so that they can seek help for you, if needed.
Finally, stay safe and have fun!