My title
How Coronavirus may affect your policy | Can I claim? Find out more

Important considerations for travelling with diabetes

  • Published on

Having diabetes should not be a barrier to travelling. As with many chronic conditions, when travelling with diabetes you just need to make the right preparations and take the right precautions before you travel to avoid any potential problems.

Important considerations for travelling with diabetes

To consider before you go

When you are travelling with diabetes, it’s most important to ensure you have the right information and documents.

Carry a diabetes ID card or wear a universal medical ID bracelet. Also take a letter from your GP explaining that you have diabetes, the medication you use and all the equipment you need to treat your diabetes.

It’s also important to stock up and take double the quantity of medication you normally would use for your diabetes. When you pack, make sure that you split your diabetes supplies in separate bags. If you’re flying make sure you have diabetes medication in your hand luggage in case your bags get lost.

You should get information from the country you’re visiting about getting medical treatment while you’re there. You also should find out where you can get emergency supplies of your insulin in your destination and the generic name, not just the brand, of your medication.

*Note: In some countries, blood glucose is measured in milligrams per 100 millilitres (expressed as mg/dl) and not in millimoles per litre (mmol/l). See the blood glucose conversion chart at Diabetes UK’s blood glucose conversion chart.

Before you go you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are travelling to a European Union member country. Travel insurance is also essential, even if you have the EHIC.

When buying insurance you may need to declare your condition to your insurer.

Considerations when flying

Security

Heightened airport security means that it is very important for people with diabetes to plan ahead before you travel. Passengers are allowed to carry essential medical equipment through airport security. However, all medication and equipment must be supported by documentation from a qualified medical professional. Look at the travel and transport pages on the Directgov website for up to date regulations and requirements for airport security.

You should also have your diabetes ID card and your letter from your GP detailing your medical needs and explaining the need to carry all medications and equipment with you in your hand luggage. It would also be useful to take a recent prescription when travelling with diabetes. 

The Civil Aviation Authority advises that diabetic passengers carry enough equipment (glucose meters, lancets, batteries) and medication in their hand baggage. They also state that insulin not being used in the flight is not packed in the hold baggage as it may be exposed to temperatures, which could degrade the insulin.

If you treat your diabetes with a pump or use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), it is essential that you contact your airline a few weeks before you fly. This is due to the wireless functionality of some insulin pumps and CGMs which many interfere with aircraft communication.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s Advisory Health Unit recommends that people with diabetes should always contact their airline before travelling to discuss medical devices they want to take on board as some airlines will need you to complete paperwork before you fly.

It’s also a good idea to discuss the possibility of having to remove your pump with your GP or diabetes team and they can then provide you with advice and additional equipment for your trip. Also if you use an insulin pump it is important to contact the manufacturer of the particular pump that you use for advice on whether your pumps can safely go through any screening equipment, including X-ray equipment.

During the flight

It is important to remember that flights often cross time zones. If you treat your diabetes with medication or insulin, it’s important to make a plan with your diabetes care team to factor in these changes.

When you arrive

Weather can affect your diabetes control. In hot climates long periods in the sun can affect your diabetes making blood glucose levels higher than normal. Keep covered with a high factor sun cream and stay in shaded areas as much as possible.

Insulin will be absorbed more quickly in hot weather and this can increase the risk of a hypo. Monitor your levels more often than normal and adjust your dose accordingly, but be aware that extremes of temperature may also affect the accuracy of your meter. Also consider that perhaps your insulin could have been damaged by the heat or in transit.

In colder weather insulin is absorbed more slowly at first but can then be absorbed suddenly when your body heats up later in the day and this could lead to a hypo. When it’s cold your body also uses up more energy staying warm which could similarly cause a hypo.

Its important to understand that hypos are more dangerous in cold conditions because they can affect with your body’s attempts to stay warm and increase the risk of hypothermia.

Diet

For diabetics, diet control is an essential part of the daily management of travelling with diabetes. When you are away you should be able to easily choose food from the local menus on offer and continue to eat a balanced and healthy diet.

Starchy carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet so it’s worth knowing what carbohydrates will be available locally. A good travel guide, pocket dictionary or even a Carbs counter app will help you to see the nutrients on your plate.

Inflight food

When you are travelling with diabetes, make sure you pack some healthy snacks for the journey to prevent your blood glucose going too low and monitor your blood glucose levels frequently to make adjustments to your dosage. This is particularly important if you are flying as inflight meals are normally smaller than normal meals and often special diabetic meals on board are low in carbohydrates and are actually unsuitable for idiabetics.

Cabin crew are usually able to provide additional fruit or crackers if you are on certain insulin or tablets and need more carbohydrates. Airlines can also let you know the times of your meals in advance so you can plan your insulin.

In case of a hypo, glucose tablets, Lucozade or fluids used to treat hypos (or if you are unable to get these then any sugary non-diet drink, sugary sweets or fruit juice) can be taken on board along with longer-acting carbohydrates like fruit, biscuits or sandwiches.

Being prepared before you travel will also help you to avoid any stressful situations that may affect your diabetes and your blood sugar level. Most importantly taking a few precautions for your trip will enable you to have the relaxing and enjoyable trip you deserve.

Diabetes and travel

Auther
ERV On Air

ERV On Air

Recent posts
Yoga and back problems

Back problems and travel insurance

Back problems can be a real pain and will affect most people...

Travelling with Arthritis

According to the NHS, there are around 10 million people in ...

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure

Travel insurance for high blood pressure. According to the N...

I was very impressed by the level of service.

They beat the competition by a country mile! Super happy and will most certainly be buying insurance with them again.

ERGO Customer - December 2019