Diabetes Care and Air Travel: Have You Packed Well?

Diabetes Care|Jul.11, 2018


The thought of an upcoming trip always puts a skip in my step. The weeks leading up to the trip are spent day-dreaming about all the excitement that awaits you. As exciting as the idea of the trip maybe, the events leading upto it are my least favourite - planning, prepping and packing. These tasks even in their standard form are pretty tedious; throw in managing diabetes care with travel and it has the potential to turn the process into a bit of a stressor. But fret not! Living with diabetes is all about making smart choices. We've got a couple of pointers that might soothe your prepping angst. With these tips, you should be able to tackle air travel with ease and focus on making the most of your trip.

Plan in Advance

Ideally, you want to start planning a couple of weeks before your scheduled date of travel. Depending on your destination, you may need to do some research on the local healthcare services and food options available. It may be a good idea to throw in that traveller's medical insurance policy, too.

Make a detailed itinerary with dates, departure and arrival times, flight durations and time differences if travelling across time zones. Then, talk to your doctor about how these factors may affect your testing frequencies and meal plans. If suggested by your doctor, undergo a thorough pretravel health checkup to ensure your blood sugar levels are under control.

What to Pack

Your medication and supplies will be allowed unhindered in-flight, according to the Bureau of Civil Aviation in India, so pack them in your carry-on bag. Also, carry a copy of your doctor's letter explaining your condition. Juice, insulin and medication in gel or liquid forms exceeding 100 ml are allowed through security if you have diabetes. You can also bring lancets with a blood glucose meter, glucagon kits and insulin delivery devices with insulin, though they must all be in their original, labelled packages.

Here's a checklist of what you can put in your cabin luggage:

  • Copies of your doctor's letter explaining you have diabetes and listing your medication, supplies and dosage
  • Diabetes identity card
  • Health insurance papers
  • Twice your usual amount of medication or insulin (never check in insulin) and supplies with original labels
  • Instruction manuals and extra batteries if you use a device that needs them
  • Emergency contact list
  • Glucose tablets, urine ketone testing strips and a glucagon emergency kit
  • Alcohol swabs or hand sanitizer
  • Diabetes-friendly snacks
  • Water bottle

Always keep your carry-on bag with you.

Diabetes-Friendly Travel Snacks

Perhaps the number one concern for those living with diabetes is what snacks to pack. Look for a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to maintain blood sugar levels. You should carry an emergency snack with you regardless of how long your trip may be. Fruits, chopped vegetables and sandwiches work well when managing flight delays or even in-flight meals.

Some other options are:

Get creative and combine two or more of these for a filling snack that can get you through longer layovers and other wait times.

At the Airport

Arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight to cover security scanning delays. Stay active by walking around at the airport. When seated, stretch and move your ankles in circles for light exercise to keep up circulation.

You should double check with your airline if you get through security without being scanned. If you can, when you reach security, request a different type of check if you're wearing a pump or continuous glucose monitor. You should never expose these devices to X-ray equipment and full-body scanners. All other supplies and medication can pass through the X-ray machines safely, so feel free to put them on the belt.

Blood Glucose Control While Travelling

According to research, changes in altitude affect some glucose meters and blood glucose control.

At high altitudes, reduced oxygen can lead to errors in readings and medication dosages, so calibrate your meters before takeoff or after landing, not in-flight. Altitudes can also raise blood sugar and insulin resistance, which can lead to an emergency called ketoacidosis. Make sure to discuss this condition with your doctor before you travel.

Once you land and during your stay, test your blood sugar levels often. The new location, food and change in sleeping habits and activity levels can all affect blood sugar control. Regular testing will help you adjust your medication and food intake as needed, so it may not be a bad idea to set an alarm. And when you head out on excursions, don't forget your diabetes bag. You may also find it useful to maintain a journal. Note what went well, what could be improved and what questions you still have for your doctor. After all, its all these little details that make the big picture.

Living with diabetes is about being prepared to manage your diabetes care. Take the right steps to enjoy your trip and then, have fun!


Disclaimer: This publication/editorial/article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.