Diabetes Supplies: You’re Going to Need a Bigger Bag

June 19, 2024

When you have diabetes, you inevitably have to carry a lot of things with you. You have to be prepared for the many curveballs that diabetes can throw your way. How do you balance keeping enough supplies on hand and not carrying a giant backpack everywhere? It can be tricky, but it can be done! Here are some examples and scenarios to help you cultivate your various diabetes bags.

Frequent places
If you have a consistent place you go to, such as work, school, or family’s homes, it may be easier to leave some supplies there. These should include supplies to inject insulin into your body and raise your blood sugar if it goes low. If the place you frequent gets very hot or cold, you must be mindful of what you keep there. For example, if you are in a car a lot, you cannot leave test strips or insulin in the car if it’s not in a temperature-controlled location because they will not function unless stored at the recommended temperatures.

Injections: Keep a pen with pen needles or a syringe and a vial that has not expired and has not been open longer than the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Pump: If you’re on an insulin pump, you’ll need at least one cartridge, infusion set (or pods), and insulin. If it’s a place you go to daily, you may want to have multiple infusion sets.
Blood Glucose Monitor: Even if you use a CGM, I recommend having a glucometer and non-expired test strips on your person or at your frequent locations.
Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM): If you’re using a closed-loop system or want to maintain CGM use, you’ll need an extra sensor and transmitter if applicable.
Low Treatment: Glucose tablets, juice boxes, fruit snacks, etc. Stash whatever carbs are easy for you to eat in these places, and you’ll be willing to eat when your low is perfect.
Glucagon(s): Glucagon is one of those things you would much rather have just in case than be searching for in a time of need. I do my best to always have a glucagon on my person.

The everyday bag
What you carry in your typical bag depends on how long you’re out and how long you’ll be gone. For my everyday bag, I like to have low treatments, a glucometer with test strips, and, if I plan to be gone for longer than a couple of hours, insulin, a syringe, and an infusion set. Admittedly, since I wear an insulin pump, if I’m only gone for a short time, I may not bring extra insulin, but it has burned me a couple of times, forcing me to leave an event early to get more insulin or a new infusion set. It’s totally up to you and the size of your bag.

The ”Going Out” bag
It can be challenging to fit everything you may need into your pockets – especially depending on what you’re wearing. (Give us more pockets, please!) You can always ask your orange bracelets (friends without diabetes) who are going with you to help carry your load. At the absolute bare minimum, you should have low treatments and enough insulin on you to get you to a safe glucose range so you can get home safely. Try finding different low options, such as fruit strips versus tubes of tablets – they fit nicely into most of my small purses and pockets. It’s also a good idea to have a way to purchase more low foods should you need them, which you’ll likely usually have with you in these scenarios.

Medical identification
Another thing that is very beneficial to have with you that may not be in your diabetes pack is medical identification. There are various options, such as Road ID, traditional medical alert jewelry, medical alert ID cards for your wallet, etc. These will help in case of an emergency. Many medical professionals are trained to look for medical ID on wrists and around necks. I also use the medical ID in my phone’s Health app, but this may not be helpful if you do not have your phone on you.

It’s also important to ensure someone with you knows how to help you in an emergency. Whether that means they give you glucagon if you’re low or call 9-1-1 if needed. This is particularly important if you’re going to be participating in recreational substances with diabetes.

When it comes to packing for travel, especially internationally, your diabetes pack will need to hold a lot of supplies. No matter where you go, you likely won’t be able to pack lightly with diabetes. And that’s okay because I’d rather be prepared and be able to enjoy myself than have to miss out.

Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES