July 12, 2006
Question from San Diego, California, USA:
My teenage daughter is traveling to Europe (England, Spain, France and Italy). She will have her supplies with her for the length of the trip but, in case her things are stolen, how can she get more supplies. especially for her pump or if she needs to return to injections?
This is fairly easy throughout Europe. Our patients travel with a letter from us that gets them through customs and airport security. She should also have a letter with a list of her medications and perhaps even a spare set of prescriptions. Any medical school, emergency room and/or pharmacy in Europe would then easily either honor those in such an emergency as supplies lost/stolen or re-write them locally without a problem. Pump supplies, even a back-up pump, could be FedExed overnight through most big European cities from the pump supplier in such an emergency as well. She should have enough extra insulin, back-up syringes and other routine supplies and perhaps split them with one of her co-travelers so that the likelihood of both backpacks getting lost/stolen would be extremely low.
Additional comments from David S. Holtzman, Esq.:
You or your daughter should have her physician responsible for managing her diabetes complete a prescription or other order listing the medications and supplies needed for the treatment of her diabetes, listing both their “brand” names and pharmacologic descriptions. Should she need any medications or supplies, she should go to the nearest pharmacy for assistance. In Europe, pharmacies can be found in any neighborhood and are distinguished by the green cross (usually in neon lights) over the door. I have travelled in each of these countries and have had no difficulty purchasing prescription medications with, or without a prescription. I found most pharmacists to be highly educated and to speak English. I also found that prescription medications are significantly cheaper overseas.
Additional comments from Dr. Jim Lane:
In a number of countries in Europe, you can obtain diabetes supplies in short amounts to get through the trip without prescriptions. It might also be possible to get a prescription sent by fax to a pharmacy. Finally, there are a number of very good diabetes clinics in Europe where they have expertise in the treatment of diabetes. They can be contacted to help, in a pinch.
Additional comments from Michelle Noschese:
The safest bet is to pack the extra supplies (more than double what is needed). Pack a full set in the carry on luggage as well as in checked luggage. She could also give extras to a friend or chaperone who is traveling with her as back ups in case her luggage is lost. Make sure the supplies include insulin and syringes in case she needs to go back to injections and discuss a plan with her diabetes team as to a back-up plan and doses if she would need to revert to injections while away.
Additional comments from Dr. Andrea Scaramuzza:
Which kind of pump is she using? I can give her help and assistance when she is in Italy. Moreover knowing the exact dates of the trip and the pump manufacturer, we could find assistance during the travel.
(Dr. Scaramuzza is pediatrician specializing in type 1 diabetes at the Department of Pediactircs, “Luigi Sacco” Hospital in Milan.)
[Editor’s comment: It is important that your daughter NOT put items in her checked luggage that must be temperature controlled, including test strips, spare meter(s), and insulin. Airplane cargo areas are too cold.