Longing to leave it all behind and head to the
sun? Or just off for a weekend away? Diabetes
will be going with you, but it doesn’t have to
slow you down.
Flying - What you need to know!
Despite new airline security restrictions people
with diabetes can still carry their blood testing,
insulin and injection equipment as hand luggage.
• Ask your GP to write a letter explaining your
need for syringes or injection devices and insulin. Doctors are entitled to charge for this, so ask your GP to write it in a general way that will cover any future flights. If you have any problems, speak to a senior member of staff.
• On board, some cabin crews may request your equipment stays with them during the flight until you need it, which is fine.
• Keep your insulin, pen/syringes and blood testing equipment in your hand luggage in case your main suitcase gets lost en route.
• Insulin should never be stored in the hold of the plane because it may degrade the insulin.
Things to pack...
• Take your medical ID with you
• Spare insulin – don’t assume that the insulin you use will be available
• Insulin pen/syringes.
• Spare pen needles/syringes.
• BD Safe-clip (available on prescription) for used needles
• Blood glucose meter, testing strips and spare lancets
• Glucagon, Hypostop or anything else you use to treat a hypo.
• Biscuits, crackers, juice and glucose tablets (carried in your hand luggage in case your main luggage gets delayed, lost or stolen).
• Currency of the country you are travelling to so you can buy food and drink as soon as you arrive if necessary.
• Small first aid kit.
• Travel insurance
• Emergency contact number.
Mighty DUKs Top Tips for flying
• Perfect control and uninterrupted routine are a bit much to expect, so be flexible.
• Do lots of blood glucose tests during, and up to 24 hours after, your journey.
• Always carry plenty of snacks when you’re travelling because you never know when there will be delays or when the in-flight meal will be served.
• Airline meals tend to be low in carbohydrate. It’s often better to order the standard or vegetarian meal rather than a ‘diabetic’ one – you can also ask the cabin staff for some extra bread or just use one of the snacks in your hand luggage.
• Plan your trip well in advance.
It may not be as easy to get insulin and other equipment overseas, or what you get might be different from what you’re used to, even in Europe. It’s best to ask your doctor to give you enough supplies and a bit extra, for your trip.
You may also need to adjust your insulin and this decision should be made with your healthcare team before you leave. (You probably won’t need to adjust your dose if the time difference is less than four hours).
This shouldn’t cause any serious problems, though – even if your blood glucose levels are slightly higher than recommended. This may help avoid having a hypo while you’re travelling.
Storing your equipment/supplies
It’s essential that your insulin, blood glucose meter and test strips are never stored in the hold of the plane, because the low temperatures can damage them – so don’t pack them in your suitcase.
It is best to keep insulin in an insulated container, such as a cool bag or wide-necked vacuum flask, which you can buy from a chemist or department store. You may have picnic equipment that you can use for this purpose.
Depending on your destination your insulin will get pretty hot if you’re not careful.
• Insulin needs to be kept at a temperature lower than 25°C
• The best way to store insulin is in the refrigerator, at 2°C to 8°C and away from the freezer compartment.
• This is not essential for the open vials and cartridges or prefilled pens you use every day, but these must be discarded after 28 days.
• Do not store in the freezer.
Specially designed pouches and containers for insulin storage are available from Frio
Some places you stay in will have a fridge you can use to store your insulin bottles or cartridges. If not, you may have to splash out on a thermos flask or insulated bag that will keep it cool while you’re on the move.
Mighty DUKs Top Tips for hot trips
• Insulin may be absorbed more quickly in a hot climate, so regularly monitor your blood glucose levels.
• If you get really hot and sweat a lot, have plenty of sugar-free drinks to replace any lost fluids.
• Store insulin in a cool place and out of direct sunlight.
• Pack twice the quantity of insulin you expect to use, in case you need to increase your dosage while away.
• Keep your blood glucose testing strips and meter as near room temperature as possible – very hot temperatures may produce inaccurately high readings.
Mighty DUKs Top Tips for cold trips
• Never allow your insulin to freeze – this will make it less effective.
• Some blood glucose testing strips may give an inaccurately low reading in cold weather.
A few other things to consider....
Insulin can go off however you can usually tell if it has gone off by looking at it.
• Clear insulin goes cloudy if it’s off.
• Cloudy insulin goes a bit lumpy and sticks to the side of the glass if it's off.
• If you’re not sure, don’t use it. Use new insulin.
• The expiry date of insulin is usually printed on the box.
• You will have to pay for any insulin you buy abroad, so keep some money back for emergencies such as this.
• If you plan to try out some of the more “extreme” sports while you’re away, be aware that some companies might not let people with diabetes take part, mainly for insurance reasons. It might help to ask for a note from your GP saying that you have good control and as such are fit and able to participate.
• Ensure that your travel insurance is comprehensive, and covers any problem you may have with your diabetes. Diabetes UK can provide a quote for travel insurance.
• Make sure you wear ID, this means that so if you do encounter any problems people know you have diabetes.
• You are likely to meet lots of new people when you’re travelling, and it’s worth letting them know about your diabetes in case you become unwell or need help treating a hypo. You can get a handy template to help with this in the hypo section
• You should seek medical advice if you detect ketones or continue to feel ill (your travel insurance should cover this). It’s very important that you keep taking some insulin.
Are you insured?
Free or reduced-cost emergency treatment is available in some European Union countries. To get this you will need to have a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). Pop into your local Post Office and pick up the leaflet 'Health advice for travellers' for more information or check out www.chic.org.uk
You can order a free EHIC by clicking here
Before travelling outside of the UK you will need to take out travel insurance that covers your diabetes. Make sure it also covers illness (including a stay in hospital), emergency travel home, and any extra expenses caused by a prolonged stay in hospital.
"Keep a check on the condition of your insulin - when it is no longer useable the colour and consistency often changes."
"Make sure you have some ID so if you do have a problem, people know if you have diabetes."