Traveling with T1D

Are you planning a vacation? Trying to escape the cold this holiday season? Whether you're visiting relatives far away, making a road trip, taking a camping trip, or studying abroad, the U-M Pediatric Diabetes team has some pointers on traveling with diabetes and making sure your trip is seamless and easy.

What to Pack

Isn’t it funny when people living without diabetes take forever to pack? If they forget something, what's the real harm? As someone living with diabetes, there's an ever-present responsibility while packing for a quick weekend getaway or a week-long trip. The consequence of forgetting to pack something for medical care can be quite costly and put a drain on an enjoyable getaway! Here are a few must-pack items:

  1. INSULIN! Always bring more than you need in case of emergencies (pump failure, delayed flights, expired vials, etc). Check out Frio pouches to keep it cool during flight and at your destination. And even if you’re on a pump, make sure to bring your long-acting insulin in case of pump failure!

  2. Pump or syringes (again, bring extra)

  3. Infusion sets and reservoirs

  4. Meter and CGM (if you use one)

  5. Test strips for BG and ketones and/or ketone strips

  6. Alcohol prep wipes, sticky adhesive and tapes - especially helpful for beach destinations

  7. Glucagon for emergency needs.

  8. Batteries and chargers for all your devices

  9. Refillable water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated

  10. Fast acting blood sugar tabs or treats

Going Far Away?

You might want to bring a list of supplies, including your insulin pump serial number, as well as contact numbers for DME supplies, pharmacy and other important care providers.  If something is lost or damaged, knowing what you need will help to alleviate extra stress.  

 

Many insulin pump companies can offer a free loaner ‘vacation’ pump.  Contact your pump company to see if this option is available to you.  

Air Travel Tips

They say traveling by air is the safest form of travel, but sometimes it presents the biggest hassle to families dealing with type 1 diabetes. Below are some travel tips specifically tailored to flying.

 

  • During plane take-offs and landings, cabin pressure changes can cause extra insulin to work it’s way through your tubing and infusion site.  To avoid any accidental extra insulin doses, it is best to disconnect your pump at both take-off and landing.

  • For safety’s sake, be sure to pack all medical items into a carry on and not a checked bag.  If your luggage becomes lost, you will have your medical items safely stored with you.  

Going Through Security

Lots of people with T1D are nervous to go through airport security because a) You don’t want to get stopped in the metal detector while wearing an insulin pump or CGM, b) You don’t want to get stopped with a bunch of needles/syringes and have people freak out or c) You don’t want to fish around or dump out ALL your supplies and justify what they are and why you need them. It can seem intimidating to deal with TSA, but there’s no need to feel like you’ve done anything wrong! Here are a couple tips to keep you feeling confident and at ease when going through the security line:

  • Keep insulin and supplies together in a plastic bag in your carry-on so that if you are questioned, you can pull them out easily and explain why you have them.

  • Wear your medical ID bracelet or have a doctor’s note on hand to give to the TSA agent just in case.

  • You can continue to wear your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) while going through common security systems like an airport metal detector - it will not harm the device. You should not send the devices through the x-ray machine.

  • You will need to remove your insulin pump and CGM (sensor and transmitter) while going through an airport body scanner. If you do not wish to remove your devices, you can request an alternative pat-down screening process. You should notify security screeners that you have diabetes, that you are wearing an insulin pump, and are you are carrying supplies with you.

Did You Know?

Our patients have highly recommended TSA Cares to make travel through the airport easier. To utilize TSA Cares, simply call ahead 2-3 days prior to flying and ask for a TSA Cares representative to meet you at the start of the security line.  The agent will help you safely and easily navigate security by advocating for your medical needs. You will not be asked to remove your insulin pump or CGM, but you may be subject to a pat-down depending on your age. You can find more information on medical devices at security checkpoints on their website.

Time Zone and Temperature Changes

Crossing time zones can cause chaos for timing basal insulin and changing your eating habits. If you have a pump, it’s fairly easy to address some of this; just remember to change the time on your pump and all your basals should fall into line. It can be harder to manage when you are on injections or using long-acting insulin (Lantus, Levemir, or Basaglar). If you are on injections, make sure to let your diabetes team know about your travel plans and where you'll be heading; they can help you modify the timing of the insulin along the way if needed. Here is a resource that may help you plan for time zone changes.

 

Also, climate changes may factor into your numbers so make sure to adjust properly -- do you get low when you’re in the sun for too long? If you are heading out on a beach vacation, make sure to work with your doctor beforehand. If you are a thrill-seeking adventurer or plan to pound the pavement at Disney, be sure to adjust for extra activity as well.  Most of all, be vigilant about getting a good night’s sleep and staying hydrated.  Your body will feel extra recharged and that's what you want from a good vacation!

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