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  » Advice for travelers  »  Diabetes and Travel

If you anticipate problems or your diabetic control is unstable take advice from your professional advisor at home before booking the trip. 

During the journey
Be prepared and take adequate supplies of insulin, syringes, blood glucose strips. Carry necessary equipment in hand luggage where it can be easily accessed. Have a means of disposing of needles. If prone to travel sickness take an anti-emetic; vomiting can predispose to hypoglycaemia. Carry diabetic identification and inform travelling companions of diabetic status - ideally travel with someone familiar with possible problems that might occur such as hypoglycaemia.

Climate
Insulin absorption may be affected in a warm climate. Maintain a high fluid intake to compensate for loss. Ensure safe storage of glucose strips to maintain accurate readings. Keep insulin out of direct sunlight and in colder climates do not let it freeze.

Activities
Some people are more active on holiday, others less so. It is important that medication, diet and insulin are adjusted to compensate.

Food and Drink
The diabetic traveller has to be extra cautious to prevent infections which can cause gastro-intestinal upset. Vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to hypoglycaemia.

Insulin Schedules
All international flights east or west involve crossing time-zones. Some practical advice on administering insulin is as follows:

  • plan in advance
  • talk with a specialist
  • take adequate equipment and medication supplies
  • take adequate carbohydrate or glucose supplies since delays can alter mealtimes
  • MONITOR sugar levels especially on long journeys.
  • be prepared for delays
  • plan a schedule in advance but be prepared to alter it later if delays occur.
Insulin Storage
Although some manufacturers state that insulin can remain stable for up to one month at normal room temperature, extremes of temperature can reduce its activity. When travelling keep vials in a cool, dark place. Polystyrene containers, vacuum flasks, face cloths in a sandwich container,are all useful. Special travel-carry systems are available from specialist suppliers.

Foot care
During the journey make sure shoes are not too tight as feet can swell. Take a walk each hour as exercise limit the amount of swelling. If hospital shoes are normally worn then also wear them on holiday. Changing to ordinary shoes could cause ulcers. Avoid walking barefoot; wear protective footwear on the sand and in the water. Avoid sunburn to feet and legs by using protective sunscreens or covering up.

Skin Care
Prevent dry skin by using moisturizers, especially on heels which crack easily. Moist skin can lead to infection. Take first aid kit for minor injuries. Examine feet regularly and seek medical attention if any problems arise.

A useful Contact

Diabetes U.K. Careline (formerly The British Diabetic Association)
  • Address: 10, Queen Anne Street, London W1M OBD
  • Phone: Careline:- Tel: 0207 636 6112. General/administrative queries (Tel:- 0207 323 1531).
  • Website address: www.diabetes.org.uk/help/careline.htm
  • Provides assistance with specific concerns related to diabetes.
  • Provides leaflets and information including 'Travel Guide' to the more popular countries visited abroad, with advice pertinent to the needs of diabetics.