Many travelers with diabetes worry about storing, packing, and transporting their medication and supplies when flying. The good news is that insulin does not need to be stored in the fridge. It keeps for up to a month without refrigeration, so unless you are going on a very long trip, you are good to go.
However, there are other considerations for travelers with diabetes, particularly when flying. Here are some practical issues to take into account on your next trip.
Packing Diabetes Medication and Supplies
With everything that travelers with diabetes need to carry on the plane, they often have to check their bag of clothes. Rea Getzels, a preschool teacher in New York City, has been insulin-dependent since she was 7 years old. She always brings extra supplies, and she never checks her medications or supplies. Her carry-on bag is dedicated to her medication, syringes and blood testing materials.
Diabetics are permitted to carry supplies in liquid containers of more than 3 ounces, but they are not to be put in the one quart Ziploc bags that other travelers must use. Supplies should be packed together in a manner that allows for easy removal and examination by officers, and insulin must be clearly identified . Detailed regulations are provided by Transportation Security Authority (TSA).
For short trips, Getzels prefers to bring everything onto the plane, but she has limited space once everything she needs for her diabetes is in her bag. Most airlines allow passengers one piece of carry-on luggage as well as a personal item such as a backpack, purse, or laptop case. Take advantage of your personal item by using something large like a backpack, which can provide that much needed extra space for clothing or medical supplies.
Bringing Diabetes Medication Through TSA
Getzels notes that every time she flies, she is pulled aside at security, wanded, and pat down by the Transportation Security Administration. You can request the pat down in a private room with a witness. Pat downs are always conducted by someone of your gender, and If you find a pat down invasive, you can request Advanced Imaging Technology.
Getzels also said TSA personnel usually examine her carry-on bag very thoroughly, sometimes looking over her vials and needles 2 or 3 times. The average security delay is about 5 minutes, but if you are in a hurry, every second counts. She factors in this extra time every time she goes to the airport.
Scheduling Meals and Insulin Shots
Getzels also packs extra food, including a source of quick sugar in case her blood glucose drops. Fun-size Snickers bars and hard candy are her favored blood sugar boosters.
The ADA recommends waiting to take your insulin on the plane until you see your food coming down the aisle: “A delay in the meal could lead to low blood glucose.”
You also have to consider time zone changes. The American Diabetes Association suggests keeping your watch on your home time zone until the morning after you arrive at your destination to more easily keep track of shots and meals through changing time zones.
Online Resources for Travelers with Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association publishes a list of concerns and suggestions for travelers with diabetes, including the advice that anyone traveling see his or her doctor beforehand to “make sure your diabetes is in good control.”
The ADA also advises that you bring your prescription and a letter from your doctor about your needs in case you lose your medication or experience a medical emergency away from home.
For practical advice and stories about traveling with diabetes, check out the DiabetesMine.com travel tips section.
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