Managing diabetes includes having a predictable routine that balances meals, activity and medications to keep your blood sugar controlled. Vacations, on the other hand, are designed to take us out of our normal routine! While there’s no vacation from diabetes, knowing how to manage your diabetes while traveling can help keep your blood sugar controlled, allowing you to relax and enjoy your time away.
Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) have helpful tips for traveling with diabetes which I recommend reviewing before any trip. Here, I’ll focus on key tips and recommendations that are specific to monitoring your blood sugar while away from home.
1. Plan Before You Go: Everyone needs to plan and prepare for vacation; having diabetes just means adding a few more items to the checklist before taking off on your travels. To be prepared to monitor your blood sugar while you’re away, consider the following:
- Meet with your healthcare provider before your planned trip to obtain needed prescriptions for monitoring supplies and a letter stating you need these supplies.
- Obtain your needed supplies—lancets, test strips, extra batteries and perhaps even an extra blood glucose monitor—and bring TWICE as much as you would expect to use. Consider additional supplies that may be needed based on where you are traveling. For example, if you’ll be outdoors, you may need wet wipes to clean your hands before testing.
- Research your destination and have a plan on how you could obtain more supplies—just in case.
- Pack your monitoring supplies so they’re easily accessible to you. If flying, your supplies are allowed with you on the plane, and they should be packed in a carry-on bag that will stay with you at your seat. If driving, pack them so they will be kept out of heat and light— such as in a cooler pack (but not directly on ice, as they can get too cold). This pack should also work to safely keep supplies with you once you reach the destination.
2. Check your blood sugar more often: While traveling and once you reach your destination, your blood sugar may be out of your target range, especially if flying, crossing time zones or going to a higher altitude. It’s important to increase how often you check your blood sugar so you can respond to high or low levels as needed. It may be beneficial to set phone alarms to remind you to test regularly. If you’re more active than normal while on vacation, also check your blood sugar before, during and after activity. Additionally, be sure to keep sources of carbohydrates to treat low blood glucose with you at all times. Be aware that it can sometimes be difficult to identify signs and symptoms of low blood sugar when you’re in a different environment.
3. Using your Continuous Blood Glucose Monitor (CGM): If you use a CGM device, it’s recommended that you bring adequate—plus extra—supplies to manually test your blood sugar, especially if traveling out of the country, just in case you experience trouble with your CGM device. Based on the specific CGM device, you will also need supplies including, but not limited to: CGM sensors, insertion device, transmitter, alcohol swabs and any additional tape you may use. If flying, let the TSA agent know that you’re wearing a medical device that’s inserted under your skin and should not be removed. Request a pat down and visual inspection of your sensor and transmitter instead of putting the device through the X-ray machines or walking through a body scanner.
Monitoring your blood glucose while traveling can help keep your blood sugar under control and let you enjoy your trip!
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Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.