Whatever you usually need, whether that’s insulin, tablets and a supply of snacks, it’s advisable to take spares of everything, including equipment like needles and a blood glucose monitoring kit. “We usually say maybe take twice as much as you’d normally need, just in case things get damaged or lost,” says Pav Kalsi, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK (www.diabetes.org.uk).
Make sure you order extra supplies early enough. “A lot of pharmacies will need notice, so order them at least a couple of weeks in advance, to make sure you’ve got enough to take with you,” says Kalsi.
If you’re flying, it’s a good idea to get a letter from your GP, in case you need to explain why you’re carrying insulin and needles on the plane. “Take multiple copies if you’re getting multiple flights,” notes Kalsi. Ensure you have a suitable sharps container for needles too.
Also, if you use a pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM), bear in mind you may not be able to use these while flying (in case they interfere with the plane’s signals). Contact airlines beforehand to check; if there are restrictions, your diabetes team can advise on removing your pump/CGM and using other methods during the journey.
Another important point if you’re flying – make sure you pack medical essentials in your hand luggage, not in a suitcase that’s going to be stowed in the hold. “Firstly, it’s easier to get to if you need it during the flight, and it means you’ll still have everything you need if your suitcase gets lost,” says Kalsi. “Plus, the temperature in the compartments can affect insulin, so it’s best to have it with you.”
Generally speaking, no destination is out of bounds, but it’s worth being aware that travelling to a different climate could affect your diabetes. Things like very hot or cold weather, as well as altitude, could impact blood glucose levels, and how your insulin and monitor works. “So perhaps it’s a case of just testing more frequently, or in different circumstances while you’re away, so you can compare the differences,” suggests Kalsi.
Often, hotels will have a fridge in your room where you can store insulin. If you’re unsure though, call ahead to ask about access to suitable storage spaces. Take into consideration storage while you’re on the move too. Cool bags will make sure you can take plenty of insulin with you if you’re planning any excursions, day trips and long road journeys, for instance.
Even with careful planning and packing, there’s still a chance you’ll need to top up your insulin supplies, replace a lost of broken monitoring kit, respond to a hypo or access medical care, so it’s a good idea to have any contact information and addresses already researched before you go. Make a list of pharmacies/hospitals near where you’re staying, along with important contacts back home. “Also, be aware that your medicine might not have the same name in every country, so it’s best to call the company that produces it and ask their customers services for any information you might need,” suggest Kalsi. This is especially important if you’re travelling for long periods and might need to order more insulin while you’re away.
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