Ebola outbreaks. Zika scares. Political upheaval. There’s a lot to keep in mind if you’re planning to cross international borders in the near future. But while you’re planning for the worst and (hopefully) expecting the best, don’t forget to keep a more familiar threat in mind: your diabetes. You may be prepared for fire, famine, or flood, but remember that a diabetic high or low could stop you in your tracks even if all else goes according to plan.
International SOS, a medical and travel security company, says that failing to properly manage chronic conditions can be a greater risk than infectious diseases. And it makes sense for people with diabetes, because while your chances of contracting a rare disease are low, having a hypo- or hyperglycemic event is much more likely when you’re not on your home turf.
All the things that help you regulate blood sugar, like sticking to a schedule, eating at regular intervals, choosing familiar foods, and being in close contact with your doctor, are harder when you’re in Timbuktu (yes, it’s a real place). New time zones, climates, foods, and general travel stress can do a number on your levels.
Also, if you do have a high or low (or another complication), you may not be able to contact your doctor or access familiar treatments. You may be unsure where to get needed supplies, and if there’s a language barrier, it may be hard to explain what you need.
But there is still no reason that people with diabetes should cancel all their travel plans. Adventure awaits, and adventure doesn’t care about the state of your pancreas. It can be challenging to manage your blood sugar in unfamiliar situations, but a little preparation can make a huge difference!
Traveling With Diabetes Prep Plan:
1. Have A Chat With Your Doctor
If you’re traveling internationally, you should start by checking to see if there are required immunizations and boosters you’ll need. If you do go in for shots, see if your doctor has other travel trips. It’s a good idea to have a letter from your doctor explaining your diabetes and needed supplies. This can make getting through security easier, and should an emergency arise and you need treatment or a prescription, a doctor’s letter can be a huge help. See if you can get a translated copy if you’re traveling to a place where English is not common.
Please note that you don’t need a letter to get through TSA in the United Sates, but it may help to expedite the process. Speaking of TSA…
2. Do Your TSA Homework
One of the biggest travel stressors is getting through the airport security checks. The crowds, the drug-sniffing dogs, the hollered instructions—it’s enough to cause anyone stress! Mitigate that stress by knowing what to expect ahead of time. TSA’s website has information just for diabetics that you can peruse for information on how to pack, what to expect, and what your options are.
3. Don’t Pack Light
It’s tempting to want to save packing until the night before your trip, but please resist that urge! Make sure that you list out supplies you’ll need and bring extra in case of delays. Local pharmacies may not have what you need, or they may have a brand of medication that you are unfamiliar with. You don’t want to spend time locating extra diabetes supplies when you could be enjoying your new surroundings. And of course, keep at least part of your needed medical supplies in your carry-on bag—just in case!
“NEXT” for more tips on wise adventuring!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.