Diabetes: Expert Shares Important Travel Tips For Diabetics- Do Follow These!
Diabetics should carry extra supply of insulin and other medicines which they may need in case of emergencies.
It is important for diabetics to take all precautionary measures while travelling
- People with type 1 diabetes must carry sufficient insulin supply
- They should carry all necessary medicines in their handbag
- Time zone differences can upset their schedule
Now that COVID-19 is slowly settling down, it will not be long before people with diabetes start travelling both nationally and internationally to the same level as they used to in the pre-COVID days. There are a number of things that people with diabetes have to keep in mind while travelling. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, they should not forget to carry their medicines with them. This is particularly true for people with type 1 diabetes as their life depends on the insulin injections that they take. So whether they are taking the insulin injections in the conventional method with vials, syringes and needles or whether they are using an insulin pen or indeed even they are using an insulin pump, it is most essential that they do not forget to take their insulin supplies with them and have some extra stock also for an emergency situation.
Travel tips that all diabetics must follow
It is impossible to get most medicines off the counter as we get in India as in most countries the sale of medicines is very strictly regulated. Hence, for an insulin dependent type 1 diabetes, this could be a life and death issue if they miss the supply of insulin. It would be a good idea to pack some extra supplies in the check-in bag also, because in case the handbag gets lost, they have it in the checked-in bag.
The other challenge that people with diabetes face is with regards to the time of taking the medicines. Time zone differences can completely upset their schedule. For example, when we start from India it could be midnight, but the place we are going to would be several hours behind us or ahead of us, in the time zone (often up to 12 hours). Moreover, during the travel one might pass through several time zones. All this can lead to confusion as to what time one should take the medicines i.e. either the anti-diabetic tablets, insulin, or even the other medicines like BP tablets etc. If in doubt, it is always better to take a slightly lower dose of the medicines in order to prevent low sugar reactions. In addition, one should always carry one's glucose testing equipment. e.g. glucometers, along with enough blood glucose strips, so that if in doubt, one can check one's sugar and then take the anti-diabetic medicines.
Low sugar reactions or hypoglycemia can occur despite all the precautions you take and therefore, you should carry with you either glucose packets or glucose tablets or at least foods containing some sugar, e.g. biscuits or fruits with you during the travel. Some countries are very strict about not allowing food into the country. E.g. Australia, New Zealand and a few other countries. In such situations it is important to at least carry glucose or glucose tablets with you.
If one is on other medications, like statins for cholesterol, BP medicines or any other medicines, one should have enough stock of these. One should anticipate that unexpected problems, delays, or even the necessity of postponing one's return journey may occur due to (flight cancellations or heaven forbid, one losing one's passport), or emergency situations like flights getting disrupted due to COVID or any other such unexpected emergencies. Thus, if one is going for a month, it's a good idea to carry at least a couple of months extra supplies of the medicines just in case one is caught unawares due to any of these unexpected emergency situations.
Finally, you should carry a card or note saying that you have diabetes, giving the contact numbers, cell numbers, email IDs and address of one's family or friends both at home and at the place one is visiting. You should also carry the telephone number and email ID of your treating doctor. The card should also state that if found unconscious, intravenous glucose can be given as it could be a hypoglycaemia, low sugar reaction.
(Dr V Mohan, Chairman and Chief of Diabetology, Dr Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai)
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