Diabetes, regardless of Type, should be no barrier to exploring the world. Chartwell, a specialist insurance broker for those with disabilities, has looked into how making the right preparations four to six weeks prior to travel should minimise any potential problems when travelling with diabetes.
The diet for people with diabetes is the same healthy, balanced diet recommended for everyone, so you should easily be able to choose suitable items from the menu whilst you are away.
If you’re flying to your destination, do not order a special diabetic meal on board as these are often low in carbohydrate, making them generally unsuitable. Make sure you pack extra, healthy snacks in case of delays with your journey.
Medicines and travel vaccines
It is important to meet with your GP or diabetes specialist before you travel to discuss any necessary travel vaccines and how they can affect your blood glucose control, as well as things like how the local weather and changing time zones can affect your diabetes and its management.
Carry diabetes ID and, if you are travelling alone, let the hotel staff know you are diabetic when you check in, in case you should fall ill.
Take with you twice the quantity of medical supplies you would normally use for your diabetes. You should also take a recent prescription and a letter from your GP. The letter should explain that you have diabetes, the medication you use and all the equipment you need to take with you in order to manage your condition. It would be helpful if the letter explains the need to carry all medications and equipment in your hand luggage in order to prevent medication from spoiling or going missing in the hold. Some GPs may charge for this, so if you travel frequently, ask them to write it in such a way that it can be used more than once.
Before travelling, find out where you can get supplies of insulin at your destination, and if it is supplied under a different name, in case of emergency. In some countries, blood glucose is measured in milligrams per 100 millilitres (expressed as mg/dl) and not in millimoles per litre (mmol/l). A blood glucose conversion chart can be found at http://www.diabetes.org.uk/travel.
Diabetes UK recommends that everyone you’re travelling with is insured on a travel insurance policy that covers pre-existing medical conditions. Make sure you declare all your medical conditions, including your diabetes, as making a mistake or omission could result in a claim being refused. Also, check what you are covered for and take a copy of your policy when travelling.
Make sure you have the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are travelling to a European Union member country – it will ensure that you have easy access to healthcare in that country, with reduced-cost and, sometimes, free medical treatment.
The Civil Aviation Authority’s Advisory Health Unit recommends that people with diabetes should always contact their airline before travelling to discuss medical devices they intend to take on board aircraft and the current security regulations. Some airlines will require a doctors notes or additional paperwork to be completed prior to travel. Some insulin pumps are unable to go through the X-ray or full-body scanners, so it is important to check with the pump manufacturer, and if you are unable to go through the scanners, discuss this with the airline.
The information provided above is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your GP or other qualified healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.