How to Travel Safely with Diabetes

With warm weather in full effect, vacation season has officially arrived. This is the time of year that friends and family flock together to enjoy exploration and adventure, rest and relaxation, and some much needed time away. Doing this with diabetes, though, can be a lot to handle. Living with diabetes is hard enough itself, but when you factor in packing, travel and not being within your normal daily routine, it can get tricky. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming though! Check out these 6 tips for traveling safely and successfully with diabetes.

  1. See Your Doctor Before You Leave

Before you hit the road, travel overseas or plan to be anywhere other than home for an extended period of time, go see your doctor to have a medical exam. If you’re leaving home for a little while, you want to make sure everything is in control with your diabetes. Schedule the exam about a month before you leave, so that if everything isn’t in control, you have enough time to get things back on track.

Don’t leave your doctor’s office without getting both a letter and a prescription. If there’s an emergency, you’ll want to have a letter with you explaining what you need to do for your diabetes as well as list any allergies you might have. Though you should have enough supplies with you, a prescription for more insulin, syringes or pills is good to have with you just in case.

  1. Plan for Meals and Pack Healthy Snacks

Planning for meals is so important when traveling, especially if you’re going to be flying. Sometimes you can request meals for special dietary needs, but you should always have emergency snacks with you just in case. Some really great snacks for traveling (and always) are grapes and cheese, carrot sticks, walnuts, and low sugar yogurt.

  1. Know About Local Pharmacies and Hospitals

Research the closest hospitals and pharmacies before you go. If you’re staying in a hotel, the staff may be able to help you out with this as well. Even if you’ll be in the wilderness somewhere, try to figure out the closest hospital or urgent care to go if you’re in a bind.

  1. Check Your Blood Sugar Frequently

When you’re at home, you probably stick to the same routine along with foods that are relatively normal for you to munch on. While you’re away on vacation, you may be trying new or unfamiliar foods. Check your blood sugar more frequently than you normally would as well as 90 minutes or so after a meal.

  1. Pack Comfortable Walking Shoes

You may be doing a lot of walking while you’re away, so pack comfortable walking shoes to avoid blisters. If you’ll be walking on the beach, where sandals rather than going barefoot so you don’t get stuck with nasty cuts that could lead to infection.

  1. Bring Extra Supplies

Go ahead and bring twice as many supplies as you think you might need. Bring these in a carry-on bag as opposed to checking them on a flight where they could get lost or delayed. Also keep in mind where you’ll be able to store your supplies.

 

Diabetes Service Dogs

Diabetes affects everyone differently. While some individuals are able to manage their diabetes with relative ease and are in tune to their body’s needs, others may struggle to stay on top of or manage the disease that can be life threatening if not treated properly. When it comes to hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar), some individuals are unaware that their blood sugar is dangerously low. The American Diabetes Association refers to this as hypoglycemia unawareness and it affects people who have had diabetes for a long time and may have frequent low blood glucose episodes (which can make people less likely to sense the early warning signs). If you suffer from frequent bouts of hypoglycemia or have hypoglycemia awareness, have you considered having a dog help you out? Diabetes service dogs are becoming more popular and help to save lives. Here’s some proof:

 

Kristen has Type 1 diabetes and when she was in her early twenties she got a golden retriever puppy, whom she named Montana. One night, when Kristen was sleeping, Montana would not leave her side and was insistent that she wake up. At first, Kristen was annoyed that her dog had disturbed her sleep, but then she thought about checking her blood sugar, which ended up being low. Since the initial incident, Kristen’s four-legged friend wakes her up a few nights a month when he  detects her blood sugar is low and when she tests, he’s always right. Without Montana’s vigilant watch over Kristen, she could easily have an accident, fall into a diabetic coma, or even die.

 

The Job of a Diabetes Service Dog

 

In Kristen’s case, she was fortunate to have Montana by her side. Montana had not been trained to detect low blood sugar, it was just something he picked up on his own, but since the first life saving detection, Kristen does reward him with treats whenever he alerts her that she is hypoglycemic. A dog’s sense of smell is about 100,000 times more accurate than a human’s and even if you find your dog’s keen sense of smell to be annoying at times, it can be a lifesaver.

 

A diabetes service dog is trained to smell the changes in a person’s blood sugar, either too low or too high, through the person’s breath and body odor. Once the dog detects the change, he or she is trained to constantly alert (through pawing, whining, or barking) the individual until the levels return to normal. If the diabetic individual is unresponsive or is not improving, the service dog is trained to seek assistance from someone else.

 

Like other service dogs, a diabetes service dog becomes a constant companion and is always on watch for changes in his or her diabetic companion. Not only can a diabetes service dog save the life of his or her companion, but individuals with diabetes may feel more in control of their diabetes and may feel less afraid to partake in everyday activities such as work, social engagements, and even taking a nap.