Travelling with Diabetes

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I’ve been travelling more than I’m used to lately and suddenly I’m really interested in what items to pack for my diabetes.  On a plane the other day I suddenly had the thought, “What if I use up all my sugar for lows and need more?”  Now typically on a large plane, there are sodas and juice but on the plane to my hometown there is no such thing because it’s a small bumpy ride home.

So…I want to ask those of you who have diabetes and travel from time to time or frequently, what do you pack in your carry on?  Do you travel with glucagon?  Do you bring tons of back up glucose tabs?  What do you do with your back up or extra insulin that you bring if there is no fridge in the hotel room?  Does that affect it’s function later?  Do you eat differently when you are travelling?

So many questions!

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I just did a 24 trip from tx to germany and boy was hat an eye opener when it comes to diabetes.

I fly about 10/20 round trip flights per year and have the Animas Ping. What I’ve learned about flying with diabetes:

1. When you take off, sometimes I believe the force surges some insulin from the hose into me as I have no other reason to explain sudden lows shortly after take-off.
2. If you pack juice that is greater than 4 oz, they have to swab it for chemicals. I’m usually getting a pat-down at that point because they’ve noticed my pump in the full body scan or it’s set off the detector, so it doesn’t delay me too much more.
3. Announcing to the person/people watching the belt screening t.v. that you’re diabetic and have a pump on and supplies in your bag, although frequently acknowledged, does not avoid the swabbing/body scans mentioned in #2 above.
4. Most people (TSA) do not understand the purpose for juice with a diabetic as they mostly deal with type 2s I’m assuming. They ask if it’s medicine and if you say no they’ll throw it away. Boggles my mind.
5. Flight attendants, like regular people, cannot always be counted on to understand your needs. I got low on a flight after takeoff and after drinking the juices I packed, still needed more. When she came by to give me my complimentary glass of soda, I asked for the whole can due to my low blood sugars. She said ‘you get refills.’ I wasn’t going to argue. She came back shortly after with a refill but at this point, I was pretty low and needed a whole can. I went to the front of the plane so the attendant could hear me better and asked for a whole can. I explained I’m a type 1 and that I drank all that I had packed and the glass of pop that had been provided and still needed more, as I sometime have problems after take-off getting low due to the force. She said ‘I’m hypoglycemic and have never had that problem.’ I think ‘well duh, you don’t have a pump. Some people. Long story short, she never gave me more soda but luckily, my sugar came up.

All of my diabetic supplies are packed in my carry-on no matter what. I don’t trust that the airline won’t lose it. I usually pack two bottles of novolog and one lantus (for pump failure), Glucagon, 5 sets of pump parts (a few extra) and lots of test strips. I typically tell the person next to me (unless they’re creepy) that I’m a type 1 and if I go unconscious to tell the flight attendants that.

I never refrigerate my insulin, but I certainly don’t leave it sitting in a car where the temperate can get to above room-temp. I’ve never had a problem. I mean, if the insulin can be in your pump at room temperature for days, what’s wrong with it staying in the vial at the same temp?

So, that’s my story (sorry for the venting).

Hi there,
Just found your blog and saw this one. I travel a fair amount (at least to me its a fair amount), two big trips/year involving 12 hours of travel in a year.
What I’ve learned is:
1) Always carry ALL of your supplies in your carry on.
2) Make sure your carry on is right above your seat and labeled well. I had a guy take my carry on in the Seattle Airport because the cargo storage was full around me and I had to put my carry on 5 seats in front of me. My carry on was identical to the man’s but a little smaller). Anyway, we were getting on a cruise the next day so time was of the essence. It took 3 painstaking, anxiety ridden hours to find the gentleman with my carry on. I was lucky, if he had caught another flight, I would have been SOL.
3) For treatment of lows, I carry a lot of jelly beans and licorice. They are great for immediate sugar boosts….. and no one can throw it in the garbage for being over 3oz.
4) I too have an Animas ping and the company recommends NO RADIATION, meaning Xray. They’re also unclear as to the effect the scanners have on the pump so they don’t recommend the scanners either. I don’t go through any of the scanners or the X-ray machines. I tell the individual as I’m putting my bags through the X-ray machine and request an opt out. That way they’re aware and take me immediately around all the scanners, pat me down and test for explosives (it’s quicker than walking through the scanner, beeping and then having to find someone to pat you down) I don’t really care about doing that as it’s they’re job and who knows what the terrorist will think of next
5) If you’re traveling somewhere remote or overseas, take an extra pump with you just incase. Animas provides you with a FREE travel replacement in the event yours breaks.
Medtronics does as well, but they charge you $50 just to have it with you.
(Take the pump our of your carry on and carry it with you for the pat down)
6) Despite having an extra pump, I pack a lantus pen with me and extra nova log. The Insulin (both Novalog and Lantus) is good for a full month unrefridgerated

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Hope this helps whomever may read this :)

Thank you soooo much for all that great info, Shannon! Thanks for sharing :)

Simple … Everywhere around the world we grab packets of “sugar in the raw.” Far easier to get down than white sugar, no liquid issues & it’s yummy. 2 packets of those & even if i am still dropping I have bought 20 mins. I have them all over my life (cars, puse, travel bags, son’s backpack, camera bag, etc). They never spoil, no issues with security, melting in heat, etc. Anytime we are at a Starbucks or restaurant with brown crystal sugar packs, we restock. I actually have quite an interesting collection in a glass container of sugar packets from around the world!

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