Joe's Diabetes

Travelling with Type 1 Diabetes

 

You’re going on holiday! Hooray! Maybe you’re planning a massive round the world trip? If so, there's good advice here, but also check out Tim Omer’s blog. It’s (back)packed full of interesting stories and advice for the keen traveller.

More likely you’re going to have a break for a week or two. Time to kick back and relax. Have a bit of fun in the sun and forget about the stress and strains of life. But before you do that, there are 3 key things to think about when you go away with diabetes.

 

Basics

All your diabetic equipment! Failure to plan is planning to fail, so if you’re using insulin pens you’ll need something just to see you through the days. On top of that, you never know what might happen so it’s a good idea to pack at least half again more than you need, if not twice as much. Definitely bring a spare meter, test strips, and insulin. So if you’re using insulin pens, a check-list starts to look like:

3 x insulin pens (one each for long acting & short acting insulin, and one spare to use in emergencies. Ideally you would bring two spare, one each for the different kind of insulin as although you can use the cartridges interchangeably it won’t necessarily be 100% accurate with the ‘wrong’ insulin.)

4 x 3ml insulin cartridges (2x short acting and 2 x long acting)

2 x glucose meter

2 x finger pricker

3 x pot of 50 test strips

50 x lancets (measuring 4 x a day)*

50 x needles (4 x injections a day, but also allow for injections to correct blood sugars at 1 x a day)

5 x hypo treatments (ideally something that won’t melt, like jelly babies or glucose gel)

Frio wallet (if you’re going to a hot country. Possibly take a spare if you want to be super careful.)

 

If you’re on an insulin pump, supplies for a week’s trip might look like this:

Insulin pump (not easy to forget!)

3 x AA Batteries (one in use, one spare, one for emergencies)

3 or 4 x cartridges (each lasting about 3 days)

3 or 4 x tubing and cannula (each lasting about.3 days)

2 x insertion device (if used)

1 x roll of medical tape (to be used in emergencies if the cannula plaster does not stick well)

2 x 10ml insulin vials

2 x glucose meter

2 x finger pricker

3 x pot of 50 test strips

50 x lancets (measuring 4 x a day)*

5 x hypo treatments (ideally something that won’t melt, like jelly babies or glucose gel)

2 x insulin pens (one each for long acting & short acting insulin, as spares to use in emergencies) Ideally you would bring two spare, one each for the different kind of insulin as although you can use the cartridges interchangeably it won’t necessarily be 100% accurate with the ‘wrong’ insulin.)

2 x 3ml insulin cartridges (1 x short acting and 1 x long acting)

20 x Needles (as these are only for emergency purposes you probably won’t need to take as many as you might need for a full trip)

 

As ever, always good to have a Small-in-one as a main case if you're on pens (it's great for day trips) or as a back-up if you're on an insulin pump. It doesn't take up much room but it fits all you need:

 

 *I know most people don’t change their lancet every time/actually only change it once in a blue moon, but I’m writing about what’s best practice - it’s up to you how you follow it!

 

Insurance and Documents

Right, now that’s out of the way, you can relax can’t you? Wrong. You need to be safe so…

Make sure if you’re travelling in the EU to have your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you, and that it’s up to date. Otherwise, if you fall ill or need medical assistance abroad you’ll have to pay the full amount… Not a nice thought.

 

Travel insurance. Get out cover for your diabetes. Even if you’re going out to the EU and you’ve got your EHIC, it’s not a bad idea. And you might be able to tack it on to your travel insurance anyway. If you’re looking for insurers check out the following:

 

Diabetes UK

Diabetes.co.uk

Holiday Safe

Insurance 4 Insulin Pumps (if you’re on one)

 

Both the last two on the list were used by Tim Omer on his backpacking adventure, check out why here.

Doctor’s letter. This can be very handy at airports when you’re going through security. I’ve never had a problem, but it’s good to have peace of mind with the knowledge you’re a ‘medically approved’ diabetic.

Also, if you’re using an insulin pump, make sure the security people don’t put it through the X-ray scanner – it will wipe all the data… Tell them you’re wearing it, and they’ll swab it to make sure it’s not explosive.

 

Activities

OK Joe, so I’ve packed everything under the sun, and I’ve spent endless time and money making sure I’m safe for my trip. Can I relax yet? Um… No.

Keeping insulin cool. Frio wallets can be really handy for this; they keep your insulin at a safe temperature when you’re on the move and you can even get one for a pump. Otherwise, keep your main store of insulin in a fridge when you can. If it gets too hot, it won’t work and that’s not something to take too lightly…

Being more active. Chances are it will be hot, and that you’ll be doing more things – swimming (if you wear a non-waterproof insulin pump and want to swim check out my blog for advice), hiking, cycling, walking, dancing. You name it, you’ll probably be doing it! Also, along with being hotter, high altitude could affect your diabetes too. So watch out for your glucose level dropping. The combination of heat and exercise can really make it plummet so take some hypo treatments around with you wherever you go.

 

Drinking alcohol. Much like above, be careful of your bloods. If you’re drinking beer, you might notice your sugars spike after a few, and then come down hours later/the next day.

 

Oh, and relax OK -  you’re on holiday remember...