Traveling Safely With Diabetes
A Little Extra Planning Can Assure a Safe and Fun Vacation
Yutzy and Bell both advise wearing a medical alert bracelet and
carrying extra supplies: Those glass bottles of insulin can drop and break. And
travelers who are flying should be sure to carry supplies on the plane;
checking them with baggage can be a big mistake. "You don't want to be in
Portland, Oregon, when your baggage and your supplies are in Portland,
Maine," Yutzy says.
Traveling overseas may involve an entirely different level of
preparation and planning, particularly if people with diabetes are traveling to
Third World countries. Yutzy advises checking with the U.S. State Department to
find English-speaking doctors at any travel destination.
Yutzy and Bell also stress that needles and syringes can raise
the eyebrows of customs officials in some countries. Documentation that the
supplies are necessary to treat diabetes can save a lot of grief. "People
need a signed letter from their doctor, on letterhead," Bell advises.
Also, traveling across time zones can complicate things for
patients who are on a regular insulin schedule. "What I usually advise
people is to treat their diabetes as if they were on American time until they
get to Europe [or wherever they're going]," Bell tells WebMD. "Once
they get there, they can change over to European time. And when they come back,
stay on European time until they get home."
But Bell says that in the "nitty gritty" of travel,
people are not apt to eat regularly. "So I tell them they have to check
their glucose multiple times," he cautions. "If they are running low
they need to take some sugar, and if they are running high they need to take
some insulin to stay on schedule."
What else do you need to know about when the car or plane ride
is over and you've reached your destination?
Experts say patients experiencing neuropathy -- like the
patient described by Weinberg -- need to be cautious about ambitious
adventures, especially hiking. And Bell says a walk across the blazing sands of
a summertime beach can be hazardous for patients who have lost feeling in their
Similarly, patients who have eye complications stemming from
diabetes should think twice about scuba diving. And any water sports can be
made safer by using the "buddy system," Yutzy and Bell say.
For the traveler whose diabetes is well controlled and without
complications, vacations can be as adventurous or relaxing as the next
person's. "People with diabetes climb mountains and hike the Appalachian
Trail," Yutzy tells WebMD. "The key is making sure you know how to take
care of yourself."