Having diabetes should not affect you being able to travel, but just takes a little more planning to make sure everything is in place so you enjoy your holiday.
Before going away take time to plan your holiday. Work out how much travelling is involved, the type of accommodation (urban or remote). If you are going abroad you need to consider the potential impact of the difference climate and food can have on your diabetes. Access to medical supplies services may not always be available. Do not take it for granted that you can get a fresh supply of insulin if you run out!
We will look at what needs to be planned in advance, what needs to be taken in the hand luggage and a few general considerations.
What needs to be considered before a holiday:-
There are several items that need to be taken in the hand luggage to prevent them becoming lost or damaged. It is a good idea to split your items between your own hand luggage and your travelling companion if you have one. The items recommended for hand luggage are:-
Travel and Health Insurance
It is a good idea to sort out your travel and health insurance to cover your stay. Make sure your travel agent or provider of travel insurance is aware you have diabetes. Diabetes UK offers travel insurance though it is a good idea to shop around for the best quote. If you have been diagnosed after you took out your travel insurance check that you are covered prior to leaving.
Take more insulin than you would normally need. If you are travelling with someone else it’s a good idea to put half your supply in the other person’s baggage just in case yours goes astray!
If you use an insulin mixture, consider taking a small supply of soluble or ‘clear’ insulin which you can use if you are ill, you will need to speak to your doctor or nurse about this.
If you are travelling to a tropical climate take a cool bag such as a Frio bag www.friouk.com or vacuum flask to keep you insulin cool. While on the plane always keep your insulin in your hand luggage to avoid the solution freezing in the hold, if this happens it will not be reliable and should not be used.
Make sure you have an extra supply of pens and syringes in case you lose a pen or the device malfunctions. Carry a letter or document which states that you have diabetes. You may find it difficult to explain why you are carrying a suitcase full of syringes and needles!
Airlines are not likely to agree to place insulin in a refrigerator. They will however provide you with enough ice to keep your insulin cool during a long flight.
If travelling for longer than one month and on insulin therapy we would suggest you speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for advice as insulin is only safe out of the fridge for one month and must be discarded after this time.
Dealing with time zone changes is complex and best discussed with your doctor or diabetes nurse specialist. The following general tips are useful if there is a time zone difference of four hours or more in between home and your destination.
A website that will help with your insulin calculation is www.voyagemd.com
Many people are more active when on holiday and meal times are often erratic as you may be travelling. You are therefore likely to be at risk of hypos! Stay aware of your hypo symptoms and make sure your travel companions can recognise the symptoms of hypoglycaemia.
Caring for your feet on holiday
Take care of your feet. Many ulcers start off as blisters on holiday. Wear footwear at all times and never walk barefoot on the beach, because hot sand can cause damage. Your feet can sometimes swell on holiday due to the heat, making normally comfortable footwear tight and more likely to rub, also check shoes for sand because this can rub and cause blisters. If you are swimming in the sea watch out for sharp shells, sea urchins and other sharp objects which are scattered on the ocean floor! Continue to check your feet daily and care for them as you would at home.
Vomiting and Diarrhoea
Traveller’s diarrhoea is unfortunately a very common cause of a ruined holiday. Watch what you eat – take sensible precautions and always drink boiled, cooled water or bottled water. If you do develop vomiting or diarrhoea do not miss your insulin doses (see ‘sick day rules’), keep up you intake of fluids and seek medical attention early before dehydration sets in.
Draw up a list of all the things you need to take with you. A sample list is given below
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