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Checklist for Traveling with Diabetes

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  1. Always carry your diabetes supplies with you. Checked baggage can be exposed to temperature extremes that can damage insulin. Insulin, injection devices, and insulin pumps are specifically permitted on all US flights, per the TSA (see Orthopedic Shoes, Support Appliances, and Other Exterior Medical Devices , paragraph four). To quote:

    "Security Officers should not ask you to remove your orthopedic shoes, appliances, or medical device (insulin pump, feeding tube, ostomy or urine bag, or exterior component of cochlear implant) at any time during the screening process."

  2. Bring a copy of all prescriptions, including insulin, delivery devices (syringes, pens and pen needles, pumps, and pump supplies), glucagon, glucose test strips, ketone test strips, and lancets. If your diabetes supplies should be lost or stolen, these prescriptions will help you to get them replaced quickly. With new restrictions on traveling with liquids and gels, these prescriptions will help you through security checkpoints.
  3. When going through security, don't worry about X-ray effects on your your meter or your insulin. If you have any concern, ask to have your meter hand-inspected.
  4. If you're traveling with someone else, have them carry duplicate supplies, just in case.
  5. Bring more than enough diabetes supplies with you, perhaps an extra two weeks worth. This includes insulin, test strips, and lancets. It wouldn't hurt to bring an extra set of unopened insulin vials, in case you break a vial.
  6. In addition to your diabetes supplies, bring a glucagon emergency kit and medications for vomiting and diarrhea.
  7. If you're traveling to another country, take with you a note from your doctor indicating that you have insulin-dependent diabetes.
    Customs agents are quite used to travelers with diabetes, so you are unlikely to experience any problems, but the note will help if you are questioned. You should also wear a medical identification bracelet that explains that you have type 1 diabetes.
  8. Take real food with you, such as a sandwich or other meal, in case meals aren't available from elsewhere. You never know when you will be delayed, or when you'll be stuck someplace for an extra hour or two. Good food choices are fruit, Power Bars, and peanut butter crackers.
  9. Avoid "diabetic meals" on airplanes. They're usually very low carbohydrate meals designed for people with type 2 diabetes who need to lose weight.
  10. Take a large supply of emergency glucose to treat hypoglycemia. Good examples are glucose tablets, which won't melt in the heat or get sticky. Keep a sufficient supply on your person in case you are delayed and don't have access to food.
  11. Unless it is really hot in your hotel room, don't store your insulin in a hotel room refrigerator. These small refrigerators have poor temperature control, and you're as likely as not to end up with frozen insulin, which must be thrown away.
  12. Always have a water bottle with you when you are out and about to help with high blood sugars.
  13. It's an excellent idea to wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace that indicates that you have insulin-dependent diabetes. Also, carry a card in your wallet or purse too.
  14. Finally, your diabetes care team may have their own resources regarding traveling with diabetes. Be sure to connect with your team and see what they have to say before your trip.
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