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Diabetes Qualified

Ten travel top tips

Ten travel top tips

As the days are getting longer and summer is in the air, many people are planning to visit family and friends in faraway places again. Travel for work is also on the rise again. Research found that travel has several benefits, including improving your overall health and creativity.

With good planning a trip can be safe, fun and hassle-free, whether you go interstate or overseas, whether you travel by car, boat, plane, bus or train. However, travelling with diabetes means that, besides booking flights and accommodation, sorting out hire cars and travel insurance, there are a few more things to consider.

Credentialled diabetes educator Carolien Koreneff gives some good tips you will want to share with your patients.

Here are 10 tips that will help people with diabetes to travelling safely with diabetes:

  1. Visit your GP for a general check-up, to get a health summary, travel letter and extra prescriptions to bring along on the trip, and bring extra copies of these documents. Your GP can also advise you on any vaccinations that you may need to get.
  2. See your diabetes health professional for recommendations on how to manage different time zones, how to look after your diabetes in hot or cold climates and to review your sick day management plan.
  3. Get travel insurance. This is as important as remembering to bring your passport as the cost of overseas medical treatment can be very expensive. Most countries do not have free healthcare like we do. Make sure your travel insurance covers accidents and health and check if there are any limitations for pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. Consider insuring your insulin pump, if you have one.
  4. Find out about any travel restrictions by visiting https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/ and check that your passport has at least 6 months left on the expiry date by the time of your return. Allow a minimum of six weeks if you need a new passport. Don’t leave it too late as additional costs are charged to fast track your application.
  5. Carry identification and emergency contact details on you and consider wearing a medical alert bracelet. Bring the phone and email details of your family members or next-of-kin, your diabetes health professionals and your insulin company, if relevant. Consider using an ICE (or In Case of Emergency) app on your smart phone. This will show your identification and emergency contact details on the home screen even when your phone is locked.
  6. When travelling by plane put all your diabetes supplies in your carry-on luggage, preferably spread over 2 bags, and make sure your insulin pump and flash or continuous glucose monitoring device are not removed when going through airport security. They can be exposed to metal detectors but cannot be exposed to x-rays.
  7. Prepare for long delays or misplaced baggage by bringing extra food including treatment for multiple hypos (hypoglycaemia or low blood glucose levels). Just remember to declare this food and stick to the 100ml fluid restriction per container. Glucose gels or tablets are a good high GI alternative to juice or regular soft drinks for the initial treatment of any hypos and muesli bars can be another good travel companion, in case of delayed meals.
  8. Organise your medication and diabetes supplies. Bring extra supplies of each of your medications, extra pump supplies and CGM sensors, in case you are delayed. You may need to check your blood glucose levels more frequently so bring extra strips and lancets. If you use an insulin pump you will also need to pack the equipment for insulin injections, in case of a pump failure. Pack your insulin and blood glucose test strips in an insulated bag to protect them from freezing in cold climates or from extreme heat in warm climates.
  9. Consider how different foods may affect you, watch portion sizes, always drink enough water to avoid thirst and dehydration (consider bottled water to avoid ‘Bali Belly’), and be prepared to check your levels more often to see where you are at. Food is a huge highlight (and temptation!) on holidays, particularly on cruises; avoid the giant buffet and order of the menu. When on a plane wait until the food is on the table in front of you before taking any insulin. Exercise, even incidental exercise such as when sight-seeing, or lack of physical activity such as lazing by the pool, can play a big part in what your blood glucose level does.
  10. Download and review the NDSS Travel factsheet, so you know what to pack and can tick things off as you prepare them. This includes things such as extra supplies, a first aid kit, your sick day management plan, hypo treatment and various documents. If you have type 1 diabetes you should download a copy of the Travel and type 1 diabetes booklet from the NDSS website, which includes information about travelling with an insulin pump.