When your child has diabetes, traveling requires extra thought. To keep plans on track, be prepared for unexpected problems or schedule changes. Then relax and enjoy a wonderful family vacation!
- Be sure immunizations are up to date. If you’re traveling out of the country, find out if extra shots are needed. Visit the CDC Travel site for a list by country.
- Know your child’s A1C (average blood sugar) level.
- Carry prescriptions for required medications with you at all times in case of emergency.
- Have your child wear identification indicating that he has diabetes. For travel abroad, make sure the ID is written in the languages of places you’re visiting.
- Plan for time zone changes. Make sure you always know when it’s time for your child to take diabetes medication. Eastward travel means shorter days, during which your child needs less
injected insulin. When traveling west, days are longer and more insulin may be needed.
- Take twice the amount of diabetes medication and supplies than normally needed, including pump supplies with Lantus/Levemir as a backup.
- Keep insulin cool in an insulated bag with refrigerated gel packs, making sure the packs do not directly contact the insulin to prevent it from freezing.
- Keep snacks, glucose gel, tablets and juice with you in case of low blood sugar.
- Pack a glucagon emergency kit (and extra batteries).
- Keep medical insurance information and emergency phone numbers handy.
- Pack a first-aid kit.
Air travel tips:
- Find out how long the flight will be and if meals will be served. Always carry enough food to cover the entire time in case of delays or schedule changes.
- Carry diabetes supplies in carry-on luggage. Don’t risk a lost suitcase.
- All vials of insulin and insulin pens must have original, preprinted pharmaceutical labels.
- Keep diabetes medications and emergency snacks handy at your seat, not in an overhead bin.
- Ask for an aisle seat if you plan to use the restroom for insulin injections.
- Inform the flight attendant that your child has diabetes.
- When drawing up insulin doses, don’t inject air into the bottle – air on the plane is pressurized.
- Be aware that prescription laws may vary in different countries. Visit www.idf.org for a list of International Diabetes Federation Groups. You may also want a list of English-speaking doctors. Contact the American Consulate, American Express or local medical schools. Insulin in foreign countries comes in different strengths. If purchasing insulin abroad, be aware of different strengths of insulin and syringe size. An incorrect syringe may deliver too much or too little.
- Learn how to say “My child has diabetes” in the languages of the countries you’re visiting. It’s also helpful to know how to say “sugar or orange juice, please.”
- When going through X-ray equipment, rest assured that it will not hurt diabetes medications or devices. If your child has an insulin pump, tell the TSA agent before she goes through the X-ray.
- Keep medications at the right temperature. Do not leave them in a car trunk, glove box or near a window. They may get too hot or too cold. Keep them in a cooler and carry extra food.
Amusement Park Tips
- Call ahead to find out about the park’s policies for visitors with diabetes. Some parks prohibit backpacks, food and drink. Others allow emergency supplies if you have documentation of need (such as a letter from your child’s physician).
- Check to see if you can get a “special assistance pass” that lets you bypass long lines for the attractions.
- Keep your child comfortable.
- Protect your child’s feet. Never go barefoot – this includes in the shower, pool, on the beach or outdoors.
- Check blood sugar often. Changes in diet, activity and time zones can affect it in unexpected ways.
- If possible, make reservations for meals so you can avoid long waits. Also carry snacks in case meals are delayed.
For more information, visit Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology or www.YourDiabetesInfo.org.