Travel can be a lot of fun, but it takes some advance planning. People with diabetes have to plan a little more. Here are a few things to keep in mind about your insulin when you head out for that dream vacation.
When you are traveling, it is important to monitor your blood sugar more closely. This means checking your blood sugar every four hours when you are awake. Travel can be stressful, which can raise your blood sugar level. Don’t treat your blood sugar without monitoring it, and monitor it to make sure that you are giving the correct dosages of medication and/or insulin.
Keep your insulin with you when you travel, in your carry-on or purse. Insulin needs to stay in a fairly moderate temperature zone, and as such, cannot go with your luggage in the depressurized compartment. Also, if there were ever a baggage handling mishap, you would want your insulin to be with you: if your bags end up in Minneapolis-St. Paul’s when you are in Sao Paulo, you want to make sure you have your insulin.
Insulin does not need to be refrigerated. To keep your insulin at moderate temperatures, however, consider the climate in which you are traveling. Often, keeping your insulin in an insulated container or thermos will be enough to keep it cool in warm temperatures. If you are someplace very warm, however, you might consider keeping some frozen water bottles in your insulated container as well, which will help keep your insulin even colder. If you are going to be in cold climates, perhaps skiing, keep your insulin close to your body so that it stays warm.
Storing your insulin on a trip is another matter to deal with. Don’t leave your insulin in the glove compartment of a car, where temperatures can vary. Backpacks can also get very warm in the sun. Keep your insulin someplace where you can reach it.
Insulin manufacturers have a warning on their insulin that you should not expose insulin to x-rays. This does not mean that being x-rayed once or twice as you carry your luggage on should be a problem. However, if you are going to be traveling a lot, and going through many security checks, you can ask for your insulin to be visually examined. You should also be cautious to make sure that your insulin is not in the x-ray machine for too long, so asking for a visual examination is never a bad idea.
When you go on a trip, be sure to bring an extra supply of insulin and medication with you. You want to have all of the medication with you. If you do need to get medication while you are in a foreign country, see our advice below. Be sure to pack extra syringes and extras of all of the materials you generally use to monitor and care for your diabetes.
In the United States, insulin comes in the strength U-100. Not every country has insulin standardized, and some countries offer varying strengths of insulin. If you must get insulin when you are away, check the strength to make sure it is equivalent.
If you have to get insulin while you are away, get the same kind of insulin that you are normally prescribed. If you cannot get the same brand, get the same formulation in a different brand (for instance, if you are on Novolog and cannot find any, get Humalog). A pharmacist or doctor can help you establish which insulin is equivalent.
If you have to pick up insulin when you are in a foreign country, get the kind of insulin that you are used to. This particularly means that you should not switch from a slow-acting to a fast-acting insulin, or vice versa. These types of changes should always be made with medical supervision.
Go to a doctor that you trust in a foreign country. Consider calling home to get references if possibly, or ask a friend in your new location.
Insulin-dependence can be difficult to manage, particularly when traveling. But with a little forethought and some information, you can plan an exciting getaway that still maintains your health.
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