Close this search box.

Traveling with Diabetes

Girl checks glucose level by ocean

Summer is just around the corner.  If your plans involve travel or any type of outdoor activities, be sure and attend diabetes support group this month.  We will be covering both topics to help you plan ahead for a fun and safe summer. 

Listed below are safe traveling tips to consider:

Before You Leave

  • See your doctor for a checkup to ensure you’re fit for the trip. Make sure to ask your doctor:
    • How your planned activities could affect your diabetes and what to do about it.
    • How to adjust your insulin doses if you’re traveling to a different time zone.
    • To provide prescriptions for your medicines in case you lose them or run out.
    • If you’ll need any vaccines.
    • To write a letter stating that you have diabetes and why you need your medical supplies.
  • Locate pharmacies and clinics close to where you’ll be staying.
  • Wear or carry medical ID that states you have diabetes and any other health conditions.
  • Get travel insurance in case you miss your flight or need medical care.
  • Order a healthy meal for the flight that fits with your meal plan, or pack your own.
  • Packing:
    • Pack your diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag (insulin could get too cold in your checked luggage). Think about bringing a smaller bag to have at your seat for insulin, glucose tablets, and snacks.
    • Pack twice as much medicine as you think you’ll need. Carry medicines in the pharmacy bottles they came in, or ask your pharmacist to print out extra labels you can attach to plastic bags.
    • Be sure to pack healthy snacks, like fruit, veggies, protein bars, nuts, & bottled water.
  • Airport security:
    • TSA recently launched TSA Cares, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screen policies. 
    • Get an optional TSA notification card to help the screening process go more quickly and smoothly.
    • Good news: people with diabetes are exempt from the 3.4 oz liquid rule for medicines, fast-acting carbohydrates like juice, and gel packs to keep insulin cool.
      • You should immediately inform screeners if you are experiencing low blood sugar and are in need for medical assistance.
    • A continuous glucose monitor or insulin pump could be damaged going through the X-ray machine. You don’t have to disconnect either; ask for a hand inspection instead.
  • Visit CDC’s Travelers’ Health site for more helpful resources.

While You’re Traveling

  • When driving, pack a cooler with healthy foods and plenty of water to drink.
  • Don’t store insulin or diabetes medicine in direct sunlight or in a hot car; keep them in the cooler too. Don’t put insulin directly on ice or a gel pack.
  • Heat can also damage your blood sugar monitor, insulin pump, and other diabetes equipment. Don’t leave them in a hot car, by a pool, in direct sunlight, or on the beach. The same goes for supplies such as test strips.
  • Staying hydrated is a key point for any trip, but can help you more than you think while flying. Grab a bottle of water once you’re through airport security or ask for water once on the plane. 
  • If you experience hypoglycemia while on a plane, you’ll need to act fast. Always have your own usual hypo treatment & snacks with you (Ex: glucose tabs, glucose gel, glucagon kit, fruit juice, protein bar, cheese & crackers, etc).
  • Find healthy food options at the airport or a roadside restaurant:
    • Fruit, nuts, sandwiches, low sugar yogurt & protein bars
    • Salads with grilled chicken or fish (order dressing on the side)
    • Eggs and omelets
    • Burgers (skip the fries) or try with lettuce wrap instead of a bun
    • Fajitas (limit the tortillas and rice)
  • Stop and get out of the car or walk up and down the aisle of the plane or train every hour or town to prevent blood clots (people with diabetes are at higher risk).
  • Set an alarm on your phone for taking medicine if you’re traveling across time zones.

Once You’re There

  • Your blood sugar may be out of your target range at first, but your body should adjust in a few days. Check your blood sugar often and treat highs or lows as instructed by your doctor or diabetes educator.
  • If you’re going to be more active than usual, check your blood sugar before and after activity and make adjustments to food, activity, and insulin as needed.
  • Food is a highlight on vacation. Make a food plan and stick with it. You can use the Diabetes Plate Method as a guide when choosing meals.
  • Don’t overdo physical activity during the heat of the day. Avoid getting a sunburn and don’t go barefoot, not even on the beach.
  • High temperatures can change how your body uses insulin. You may need to test your blood sugar more often and adjust your insulin dose and what you eat and drink.
  • You may not be able to find everything you need to manage your diabetes away from home, especially in another country. Lean some useful phrases such as “I have diabetes” and “where is the nearest pharmacy?”
  • If your vacation is in the great outdoors, bring wet wipes so you can clean your hands before you check your blood sugar.


Staying Safe in the Heat

Summer brings a lot to look forward to (vacations, picnics, swimming, etc.).  It also brings the hot weather. If your summer activities will be taking place outside, use these tips to keep yourself safe:

Drink plenty of water

Both hot weather and high blood sugar can cause dehydration.  Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day so you don’t get dehydrated.

Check your blood sugar frequently

Both high and low blood sugar can occur in hot weather.  High temperatures can also change how your body uses insulin.  Know the signs/symptoms and treatment for high and low blood sugar.

  • High blood sugar: signs and symptoms can include increased thirst, increased urination, feeling very hungry, feeling sleepy, blurry vision, and infections or injuries that are slow to heal.  
  • Low blood sugar: signs and symptoms care include shakiness, sweaty, dizzy, confusion and difficulty speaking, hungry, weak or tired, headache, feeling nervous or upset.   

Wear sunscreen

Put on sunscreen and wear your hat when you’re outside.  Having as sunburn can raise your blood sugar levels. 

Protect your feet

Don’t go barefoot, even on the beach or at the pool.  Wash and inspect your feet every day.

Plan outdoor activities to avoid the heat

Schedule outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day, usually first thing in the morning and later in the evening.  It’s also a good idea to check the heat index.  The heat index can be up to 15 degrees higher in full sunlight.  Try and stick to the shade when the weather warms up. 

Learn more about managing Diabetes to fit your lifestyle

Ready to take control of your Diabetes so you can live your life to the fullest? NMC Health offers a free Diabetes Support Group every month where you’ll meet with our Diabetes Educator and other members of the group to learn diabetes management tips and gain knowledge on how to live your best life with Diabetes.

Join us at our next Diabetes Support Group on Thursday, June 9th.  We have a virtual meeting at 11am and in-person meeting at noon.

Interested in attending? Call our office at 316.804.6147 or click the button below. 

Skip to content