Ah, the magic of getting away from it all! With proper planning, you can leave home with peace of mind and make the most of your holiday or getaway, even if you have diabetes.
Diabetes should not prevent you from travelling. But if you want to enjoy a worry-free trip, you will need to take certain precautions.
Choice of destination
Bonjour! Hello! Hola! No matter which destination you choose, it is a good idea to learn a few diabetes-related words and phrases, such as “I have diabetes,” “Orange juice or sugar, please,” “Insulin,” or “hypoglycemia” in the local language. You will then be ready to communicate basic information if the need arises.
Here are a few points to consider depending on the choice of vacation spot, mode of transportation you use and nature of your trip.
1. Time zone changes
- You may need to adjust your drug treatment schedule due to jet lag.
- As a general rule, time differences of less than 2 to 3 hours do not require you to adjust your medication doses. The recommendation is to set your watch to the local time only upon arrival or leave it as is.
- If the time difference is greater than 3 hours, you may need to adjust your medication doses, especially if you take insulin. Talk to your family pharmacist or doctor for specifics before you leave.
In all cases, it is also a good idea to monitor your glycemia more closely throughout your trip.
2. Transportation and storage of drugs, insulin and supplies to manage diabetes
- Always keep in mind that changes in temperature or humidity levels can affect the stability of oral and injectable medications. Be sure to ask your pharmacist about the proper storage for your specific medications and follow the instructions given to you.
- Once opened, insulin will keep for a few weeks at a room temperature between 15°C and 30°C. The exact number of weeks varies from one brand to another. Your pharmacist can give you accurate information about your specific medications. Exposure to extreme temperatures should always be avoided. For example, do not leave insulin in a car on a hot or cold day). You can carry your insulin in an insulated bag, but make sure the vials do not come into direct contact with ice packs.
- Diabetes supplies, such as syringes, insulin auto-injectors and insulin pumps, are allowed on airplanes. Insulin vials and the insulated bags used to keep them cool are excluded from restrictions on liquids. You can also have with you quantities exceeding 100 ml in your carry-on bag. It is recommended that you have your medications and supplies with you at all times.
We all want our mind to be at ease when we are on vacation. To avoid any unpleasant surprises if you get sick away from home, your best bet is to buy travel insurance.
Good to Know!
Depending on a person’s age, some insurance companies require that his or her condition or treatment be stable for 3 or 6 months, before providing coverage. In other words, someone with diabetes who has experienced a change in their condition or treatment (e.g. number of insulin units, type of insulin, number of daily injections) within that timeframe may not be eligible for insurance. Other conditions may apply.
So before purchasing travel insurance, be sure to ask about the types of coverage and exclusions associated with pre-existing conditions. This will help you determine whether you can keep your original travel date or whether you need to postpone your trip in order to be covered.
Before you leave
In addition to considering the purchase of travel insurance, here are other important things to take care of before you set off.
- Get a medical check-up and have your drug therapy adjusted, if necessary.
- Ask your doctor for a letter authorizing you to travel with your diabetes supplies and medications (a sample letter is available on the Diabetes Quebec Website at www.diabete.qc.ca)
- Get vaccinated (basic vaccines and those specific to your destination).
- Ask your family pharmacist for a list of all your medications.
- Carry the telephone numbers of your doctor, pharmacist and emergency contact.
- Ask about medical facilities at your destination.
- Make sure your travel companion knows what to do if there’s a problem (how to test your blood sugar, manage an episode of hypoglycemia and inject insulin or glucagon, should you need it).
A checklist for travellers
Here is a list of travel essentials you should have with you during your trip to keep your diabetes under control:
- Blood glucose monitor with rechargeable batteries and manufacturer’s directions for use
- Lancing device and lancets
- Urine testing strips (if needed)
- Disinfectant, cotton balls
- Insulin vials
- Oral or injectable diabetes medications
- Syringes or injection pen and needles
- Insulated bag
- Insulin pump (if used) with extra batteries and replacement catheters
- Sources of fast-acting carbs (e.g. glucose tablets, Life Savers®, sugar packets, sweetened drinks) and a glucagon kit (in the event of hypoglycemia)
- Comfortable pair of shoes
- Blister bandages
- Foot care products
To be ready to deal with any situation, you should bring with you an additional one-week supply of insulin, oral diabetes medication and materials.
Remember to wear your medical identification bracelet (e.g. MedicAlert) to let emergency personnel know you have diabetes should an emergency arise.
For more information on managing diabetes while travelling, consult the Travel Guide for People with Diabetes, or the corresponding mobile application, both available on the Diabetes Quebec Website at www.diabete.qc.ca.
Do you have other questions on staying healthy while travelling? Feel free to ask your family pharmacists! They can answer your queries, tell you what to do if problems arise and help you prepare your travel health kit.
If you have diabetes, it is extremely important to properly control your blood glucose. If you are having difficulty reaching the targets set by your healthcare professional or if you experience bouts of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, speak with your family pharmacists. They can give you advice and recommend changes to your drug therapy, if need be.
Many Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies offer a blood glucose testing service and private consultations on diabetes management. Ask about these services.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.