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Travel with insulin treated diabetes

We assume that you are familiar with diabetes and are used to take insulin injections.
The homepage do therefore not contain basic information about diabetes, and how standard treatment of diabetes are adjusted and decided.We also assume that you are familiar with the different types of insulin rapid and slow acting and that you know treatment with Glucagon for low blood sugar

Travel with tablet treated diabetes

Travel preparations
Be prepared for delays like cancelled planes and extra waiting time.
Ask your doctor to write a letter explaining you insulin dose schedule.
If you use a device for self-testing of blood sugar, bring an extra battery.

1. Bring insulin with you from home.
2. Pack your insulin in your hand luggage, not in checked in lug-gage.If you are travelling to the tropics wrap the insulin in a wet towel. this will usually keep the temperature below 15C during the travel. If this is not sufficient bring a small cool box with a cool element. Be careful that the element is not too cold as the insulin do not stand freezing.
3. Bring your usual device for measuring blood sugar and reagents.The reagents can usually be kept at room temperature also in the tropics.Be prepared to measure blood sugar more frequently than at home.
4. Bring sugar tablets and glucagon (GlucaGen kit) with you in your hand baggage.It may be difficult to keep your usual schedule for meals and your usual level of physical activity during the travel.If you have a travel companion, give instructions in the use of the glucagon kit.

Adjusting insulin dosage with travels over several time zones
It is usually not necessary to adjust the insulin dose with time differences of three hours or less. From the first morning you follow the local time and take your usual insulin dose.

Travels east-wards where the day are shortened with at least 3 hours. For example travels from the US to Europe or Europe to Asia.
Travels west-wards
where the day are prolonged with at least 3 hours. For example travels from Europe to US or South America or from the US to Asia and Australia.

Test for ketones
Ketones are breakdown product of fat and ketones in the urine is a signal that the body is burning fat in stead of sugar to get energy, and a sign showing that the blood sugar has been too high for too long.
The presence of ketones shows that the diabetes is poorly controlled and if not treated, it may lead to coma and death in the most extreme.
Diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

Be sure that your travel insurance covers complications to your diabetes during your travel. The insurance company will be happy to guide you.

Insulin abroad
The diabetes society
Diabetes UK
phone: 020 7424 1000

Edited: 1 December 2008