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Tips to keeping your diabetes in check while traveling

Feb 20, 2012, 8 a.m.

Having diabetes doesn't exclude you from being able to have a good life. You can work, you can play, you can fall in love, you can earn a fortune, and you can see the world. For those who erroneously assumed that it's impossible to travel with diabetes, there's good news. As long as you make certain concessions and plan ahead, you're good to go. Here are the top 8 things to remember to do.

  1. Talk to your doctor. You don't need a doctor's note to be able to see the Pyramids of Giza or to sync your watch directly under Big Ben, but if you've got diabetes it might be a smart idea to discuss it with a medical professional to get their opinion on whether or not you're capable of certain kinds of travel. Your doctor may give you a laundry list of limitations or they may tell you to go hog-wild and enjoy yourself -- but whatever the doctor says, be sure to listen.
  2. On second thought, get that doctor's note. We're not talking about a note giving you permission to have a good time -- we're talking about getting an official note stamped with your doctor's letterhead informing airport screeners and customs officials why you'll be traveling with needles, medication, and medical devices. This will come in handy.
  3. If required, get your immunization shots as early as possible. These can sometimes mess with your blood sugar levels, something you don't want to happen as you're boarding a flight.
  4. Don't forget to bring enough candy bars and sugar sources with you to satisfy your needs if you become hypoglycemic, and check your insulin levels more often than you would at home.
  5. Even if you've never had a bad experience with an airline or lost a single piece of luggage, leave nothing to chance. Keep your syringes and medical supplies with you at all times on your carry-on luggage while you're traveling. The last thing you want is to learn that your suitcase was accidentally flown to Rome if you're in the Caribbean.
  6. Pack more insulin and prescription drugs than you'll need for your trip, allowing for unforeseen circumstances. What happens if you get stuck at your vacation destination for an extra few days without necessary medical supplies? Don't find out for yourself.
  7. Some flight are interminably long. If you have to give yourself an injection during a flight, pump half the normal amount of air into the insulin bottle as you're used to doing to allow for differences in the air pressure.
  8. Don't forget your feet when you travel with diabetes. You don't have to pack a dozen different pairs of shoes, but you should bring at least two so that you can switch them out often. Doing so will keep you mobile without having to worry about developing blisters on your feet. If you're hitting the beach, never go barefoot. This is solid advice even if you don't have diabetes -- but if you do, it's imperative. Don't use open-toed shoes that can increase your chances of injury and infection.

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