Travelling long distances always has the potential to be stressful. But when you add into the mix a chronic health condition like diabetes, the stress factor goes up a notch. So, how can you make travelling easy when you have diabetes? From packing extra medication, to planning for emergencies to adjusting to different climates and time zones, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to take the stress out of travelling with diabetes.
Preperation is key
It’s always best to be fully prepared when travelling with diabetes – think delayed planes, lost luggage or a medication mess-up. As a rule, you should pack double the amount of insulin and medical supplies (blood glucose testing strips, injection devices etc) you’ll need. Make sure you’ve ordered your prescription before travelling and if you’re short of time, use our Online NHS Prescription service to get your supplies delivered straight to your door. It’s also smart to pack an emergency spare set, just in case any medication goes missing during the journey.
Before travelling internationally, contact your insulin manufacturer to check if it’s available in the country you’re travelling to (you can find their contact numbers at www.diabetes.org.uk). This way, if anything happens to your insulin or you run out, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re able to get . If you rely on tablets, make sure you know the generic names of your medications. This will maximise your chance of accessing them in an emergency, even if the country you’re in doesn’t have the specific brand you usually take.
You’ll also need to prepare for things such as flight delays and hypoglycaemic episodes while you’re travelling. Make sure you pack plenty of starchy carbohydrates like biscuits, cereal bars or fruit buns to keep your blood glucose levels up throughout the journey, as well as fast-acting sugary snacks in case you need a quick boost.
Glucose tablets and gels for hypos can be carried on planes but if you’re not able to buy them at the airport, a sugary non-diet drink, sweets or fruit juice are effective treatments too. Try and follow it up with some longer-acting carbohydrates, like bread, fruit or biscuits, to keep your blood sugar at a normal level.
How will it affect your condition?
Depending where you’re travelling, your new destination could make a difference to how you manage your diabetes. Different climates can have an impact on how your insulin is absorbed, so make sure you check your blood glucose levels more frequently to monitor how your body is reacting to the temperatures. Both the heat and cold affect diabetes differently, so it’s vital to keep up good routines.
Changes in time zones can also disrupt your usual routines, so it may be that you need to add in an extra meal or reduce carbohydrates to keep your blood glucose normal. The most important thing is to stay aware of how your body is reacting to the changes and to adjust your routine to suit your new, temporary environment.
Travelling with insulin – keeping it cool and safe
When travelling with insulin and other medical supplies like syringes and lancets, you’ll need a letter from your doctor to prove you’re diabetic. Without it, you won’t be allowed to take your insulin and medical equipment in your hand luggage and storing it in the hold could expose it to high temperatures that decrease how effective it or risk it getting lost. Once you arrive, make sure you put your insulin in the fridge as soon as possibleIf you’re worried about how the insulin will fare during the journey, you can buy specific cool bags before you travel to keep it at the right temperature for as long as possible. However, insulin can be stored at room temperature (around 25c) for up to 28 days, so a journey on an air-conditioned plane shouldn’t affect your supply.
If you’re a type two diabetic who manages their condition with tablets, things are a bit more straightforward. Tablet medication doesn’t have the same restrictions and can be carried in your hand luggage, but you’ll still need either a letter from your doctor or your prescription for authentication.
Travel Insurance for diabetics
Travel insurance can be costly and difficult to find when you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes. However, it’s a vital part of travelling preparation that shouldn’t be skipped, especially when travelling to countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Some specialist insurance companies such as All Clear* offer cover specifically for people with Diabetes and comparison websites also offer specific diabetic travel insurance policies for a reasonable price, so they’re worth checking out too.
You should always check if you need any travel vaccinations before jetting off anywhere, but it’s especially important if you have a condition like diabetes that could make you more vulnerable to serious illness. You can find out which travel vaccinations you’ll need by booking an appointment online with Superdrug at least 6-8 weeks before you’re due to travel.
* References to All Clear are given for information purposes only and is not an endorsement of the services provided by All Clear.