Day of travel
I try to keep things streamlined on the actual travel day. Anxiety has a tendency to wreak havoc on blood glucose control for people with diabetes, so whatever measures can be taken to keep stress to a minimum should be taken. (I keep a close watch on my continuous glucose monitor graph, because it’s almost comical to watch it spike up after negotiating my way through the security checkpoints. Almost.)
For lots of people, getting through airport security can be a real stressor, and all of the medical supplies necessary for diabetes can add to that stress. Whether you’re wearing a medical device, carrying syringes, or bringing bottles of medicine, you may be stopped and questioned by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent. Here are some tips on moving through airport security safely and efficiently with your diabetes supplies:
• Keep medicines in their original packaging. The prescription labels for diabetes medicines are usually stuck to the outside of the box.
• As a general rule, x-ray machines will not harm your diabetes devices, but if you have specific concerns, check with the companies that make them. Many diabetes device companies have travel FAQs on their Web sites.
• Regarding devices and x-ray machines or scanners, you do have the right to “opt-out” and have a full pat-down from a TSA agent. (I have had this done several times and haven’t experienced any problems.)
• If you do opt for a pat-down, point out where your medical devices are on your body beforehand. TSA agents will ask if you have any “sensitive areas,” so take the time to show them where your pump, continuous glucose monitor, or any other device is connected. You also have a right to a private screening, so be sure to request one if that suits your needs.
• Wear a medical ID. Wearing medical alert jewelry is a great way to keep you safe while traveling; it can speak for you in moments when you may not be able to speak for yourself.
While you’re traveling, especially by airplane, be sure to stay as hydrated as possible. Proper hydration can help with blood glucose management, so carry a water bottle (fill it after passing through security) while traveling.
Once you’re on the plane, be sure to keep emergency diabetes supplies close by. Your spare supplies can go in the overhead bin, but keep your glucose meter and some fast-acting sugar for hypoglycemic episodes at your seat for quick access.
On the go
Once I’ve arrived at my destination, I check to make sure that my pump and my continuous glucose monitor are set to local time. When I’m traveling across time zones, I tend to change the time setting on my insulin pump as soon as the plane takes off. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, but it’s a routine I’ve developed and it works for me. As with everything, your methods of management may be different. Other people I know switch their pump time forward (or backward, depending on which direction they’re traveling) one hour every hour until it is reflecting the local time at their destination.
Then it’s time to enjoy where I am! The one thing I’m fastidious about is checking my blood glucose while traveling. Changing time zones, walking around and exploring, eating different foods, and just plain being excited about being somewhere new is enough to send my blood glucose levels into new and unpredictable patterns. I make sure that I check my blood glucose at least every two hours to make sure I stay on track and safe.
But sometimes even the best-laid plans can be thwarted by circumstance. What if you’re far from your hotel, where your backup meter is comfortably resting in your suitcase, and you realize you’ve lost your regular meter? Or what if the batteries in your insulin pump die and you haven’t brought spares? When I travel, I try to do a little research ahead of time to map out local pharmacies for those just-in-case moments.