July 24, 2015

Traveling with diabetes can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Vanderbilt docs share their recommendations for safe summer travel.



Going camping this summer or planning for a big trip? Experts from the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Center share tips on making summer travel easier.

1. Be sure to prep for air travel: Keep your diabetes supplies with you at all times. Never check them with your luggage. You could be flying to Phoenix, but your luggage might end up in Cleveland. It’s also important to keep your supplies with you in the cabin to avoid the extreme temperature swings in the cargo hold. Have the prescription label in your name in order to carry your diabetes supplies onto the plane.

2. Anticipate big problems. Are you on an insulin pump? What if the pump goes bad while you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Be sure to carry Lantus or Levemir and your rapid-acting insulin in bottles — and don’t forget appropriate syringes. Have your backup plan worked out. If you need to switch to Lantus, how many units will you need to take? Hint: Your daily Lantus dose will be roughly the same as your 24-hour basal insulin requirement on a pump. If you aren’t sure how to figure this out, call your doctor before your trip — you might yourself in a place with no cellphone service.

3. Store insulin out of the heat. The fastest way to inactivate your insulin is to let it overheat (or freeze, for that matter). Use a chemical cold pack that can be recharged simply by getting it wet; there’s no need for refrigeration at all. It will stay cool for at least 24 hours. These cold packs come in many sizes to fit all kinds of insulin delivery devices. One brand is Frio, but there are others on the market.

4. Keep yourself cool. Summer heat can dehydrate even the fittest person. High blood sugar can also cause you to lose water. Make sure you keep plenty of water with you and drink regularly. While we’re on the subject of heat, don’t get sunburned. Sunburns place incredible stress on the body and can cause major increases in blood sugar, sometimes to the point of ketoacidosis (DKA). Limit your sun exposure, be generous with the sunscreen and cover your head.

5. Wear your diabetes ID. You’re really pressing your luck if you put yourself into an environment that presents a lot of challenges and you are not wearing medical identification. You can pick up sturdy diabetes identification bracelets embossed with the Children’s Diabetes Clinic’s 24-hour phone number for only $3. Our clinic number is 615-322-7842.