Traveling with Diabetes

woman using diabetes test kit
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In This Article

A diabetes travel kit is important to have on hand whether you are going just across town or across the country. The only difference? The number of supplies you'll tote along. A little prep work can prevent feeling stressed about not having what you need. If you have diabetes and are always on-the-go, take a look at our checklist of essential travel supplies for diabetes so you can keep on top of your blood sugar, no matter where you are.

What to Pack

The list below might look like a lot of stuff to carry with you, but having these items on hand will give you peace of mind and keep you feeling prepared should the unexpected occur.

  • Glucose meter: Ideally, your glucose meter should be with you at all times, even if you are just going to the grocery store. You never know when you might need to check your blood sugar.
  • Oral diabetes medication: Pack your pills so you don't miss a dose.
  • Insulin pump: If you rely on an insulin pump to regulate your blood sugar, make sure you bring it with you anywhere you travel.
  • Extra battery for the meter (and insulin pump if you use one): You don’t want your meter to lose battery power right before you sit down to a meal at your favorite restaurant. Glucose meter batteries differ by manufacturer. Learn the type of battery your meter uses and keep a spare in your testing kit. Insulin pumps will typically let you know when your battery is getting low, but it doesn’t hurt to carry a spare.
  • Insulin: If the weather is hot, you might also want to include an insulated bag with some cold packs to keep your insulin cool.
  • Syringes (or other insulin delivery device): If you are using syringes, take at least the average number you would need for an entire day, preferably more.
  • Test strips: Always keep an ample supply of test strips with you in case you need to test more frequently than you anticipate.
  • Lancing device and lancets: Carry at least the number of lancets needed for an entire day of testing. It is preferable to not reuse a lancet since it is no longer sterile after a single use and is more dull, which increases the discomfort.
  • Ketone strips: You may only use these rarely while away from home but it’s always good to have them. The foil-wrapped strips last longest.
  • Glucagon emergency kit: Glucagon is used in emergencies when blood sugar drops so low that you are unconscious or can’t swallow. Learn how to use it, teach those closest to you how and when to use it and don’t leave home without it.
  • Fast-acting glucose: You should always carry a small supply of fast-acting glucose with you at all times in case you have a low blood sugar reaction. Glucose tablets and glucose gels are available for this specific purpose. You can keep these in your purse, coat pocket, briefcase, or glucose testing kit.
  • Small packaged snacks: Wrapped peanut butter crackers, a juice box, an apple sauce pouch could also come in handy to treat low blood sugar.
  • Medical identification: It is a good idea to wear some sort of identification that indicates to emergency personnel that you have diabetes. If you are in an accident or found unconscious, this alerts medical responders to address your diabetes needs immediately. The most common types of ID are bracelets and pendants, but you may also want to get a medical ID card to keep in your wallet that states you have diabetes.
  • Health history: For more extensive travel, it's wise to carry a copy of your health history with you. A basic history includes known conditions (including type 1 diabetes), allergies, medications you are taking (include vitamin and herbal supplements), emergency contact information, healthcare providers and their contact information. You can now store this info on your phone using the Medical ID app (native on iOS or free via the Google Play Store). Update this information at least once each year.

How to Pack Your Supplies

Make sure that you have at least twice the amount of insulin, oral medication, glucose test strips, and lancets or other testing supplies you think you'll need for your trip or daily life. Designate a small carry case to house all your diabetes supplies, and then be sure to move it from bag to bag depending on what you're using that day.

Don't store your daily diabetes supplies in an environment that's not temperature-controlled, such as your car. The fluctuations between cold and heat could affect the quality of your supplies, and you don't want to waste them.

Insulin and diabetes medication don't typically need to be refrigerated, but they should be kept relatively cool. A zippered plastic pouch works well for this purpose, or there are many appropriate insulated travel pouches available to keep your stash cool.

If you're traveling via airplane, keep at least half of these supplies in your carry-on bag. Be sure to keep all medication labels intact for getting through airport security, especially for any liquids.

Before You Go

If you're headed off on a longer trip or going somewhere where you'll be out of reach of standard medical care, see your doctor before departing. Checking in with your care team before you leave will give you an idea of your current glucose control, give you a chance to get any necessary immunizations, refill any prescriptions, and talk with your doctor about an emergency plan if necessary.

If you'll be crossing time zones, be sure to speak to your doctor about the timing of your insulin injections or pill dosages, to make sure that you stay on track.

What to Do in an Emergency

Travel safely, but in case of an emergency, seek appropriate medical care quickly. Carry your phone with you and know how to call for emergency help wherever you are.

Look out for any signs of illness or infection and seek treatment immediately, as these may also affect your blood sugar control.

In an episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), quickly consume fast-acting carbs or glucose tablets, then continue to test your blood sugar every 15 minutes until it reaches your normal level.

If you're traveling in a group, inform them that you have diabetes and list signs of high or low blood sugar to look out for. If you're traveling in another country, learn to speak a few helpful phrases in the host language, such as "I have diabetes" or "Could I have orange juice or a banana, please?", and be sure you have your necessary supplies with you at all times.

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