We all enjoy traveling. Maybe not so much to work everyday (!), but definitely on a holiday with the family.
Over the years, one of the most common questions that patients ask their doctor is ‘how do I manage my diabetes when I am traveling?’.
In this article, I will briefly touch upon some simple ways to control your blood sugars when you are on the road or in a flight.
We all have busy jobs that keep us stuck to a daily routine day in and day out. However, there is one variable that affects this routine – travel. Daily commutes can have a detrimental effect on health, which I have discussed in an article elsewhere.
Traveling to work through heavy traffic means you will often reach work or reach home at different times. Due to this, you may be delayed in having your next meal or snack.
This can lead to erratic blood sugar levels.
It is important to recognize how important it is to keep a closer eye on diabetes when traveling to work.
Traveling out of town, either locally or abroad has the same challenges. Adjustment have to be made to ensure meals are taken on time, the diabetic diet is followed and medications are taken as prescribed.
What Are The Problems Faced With Regular Travel To Work?
Okay, I will start of with travel to work, as this is something we do often. I will discuss foreign travel within this section as well.
The regular commute to work can be quite cumbersome. Delays in public transport, unhygienic surroundings, contact with people with infections etc. can all have an impact on you and your blood sugar levels.
The constant stress of travel can make blood sugar levels quite erratic. This seems to be more common in patients who take insulin for their diabetes.
Some people under stress can develop either very high sugar levels, while some can develop hypoglycemia.
If proper footwear is not worn when using public transport or when walking on the street, foot infections can occur.
This happens to most of us. But remember, exercise is a very important part of management of diabetes, and lack of exercise can raise blood sugar levels.
Traveling to work can be physically exhausting. The chances of falling sick are high.
When traveling abroad, taking insulin shots on the flight may be quite difficult. Furthermore, meal times are different to the usual times you eat at home.
All this can make your sugar levels fluctuate. It is therefore important to take the right steps to manage your diabetes when traveling.
General Principles In Managing Diabetes When Traveling
Some of the points I am going to cover here may not be relevant to you, but you never know when you might need this advice.
Firstly, make sure you wear the right footwear. We often advise our patients to wear comfortable shoes when venturing out on the streets, and slippers when at home.
Avoiding foot injury is essential in diabetes. If you do sustain an injury, make sure you see your doctor as soon as possible. Foot infections are serious if they are not treated on time.
If the weather outside is cold, wrap yourself up in some warm clothing. Layers of clothing work well.
If the weather outside is hot, wear some sunglasses and a cap to prevent heat stroke, headaches and dizziness. Wear sunscreen if appropriate. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.
If you are traveling to a place located at a high altitude, then make sure you visit your doctor to get the necessary clearance first.
Make sure you stick to the dietary advice your doctor or dietitian has given you.
It is always better to carry fresh food that was cooked at home rather than something you pick up from a takeaway shop or restaurant.
Make sure you have some biscuits or chocolates in your travel bag for emergency purposes. This way, if there is a delay and you find your blood sugar levels to be low, then you can munch on these to keep your sugar levels normal.
If you travel by car, stock some snacks like cereal bars in your glove compartment.
If You Are Traveling By Car…..
If you are embarking on a long distance journey, then stop once in a while to check your blood sugar levels. Driving with a low blood sugar level is dangerous. It can endanger not just you but your family and others on the road.
By checking your sugars time to time, you can detect any drop in the blood sugars early and eat something sooner rather than later.
As I have mentioned previously, make sure you have a few snacks in your car’s glove compartment. These are for emergencies if you become hypoglycemic.
If you are traveling with someone, make sure they are aware that you have diabetes. In addition to this, make sure they are carrying some glucose powder or tablets with them in their bags. This way they may be able to help you should your blood sugar levels fall.
If You Are Traveling By Plane….
If you taking a flight to reach your destination, make sure you inform the airline staff that you have diabetes. You could do this when booking your flights or when boarding the flight.
Flight attendants are trained in dealing with certain emergencies, so will be able to help you should your blood sugar levels fall.
Nonetheless, make sure you take adequate precautions yourself. Reach the airport well before departure time to avoid the stress of having to rush through check-in and security.
Carry your snacks and medicines in your hand baggage, not your check-in luggage. Inform security that you have diabetes and show them your prescription. You should have no problem going through security if you have this on you.
If you have an insulin pump, then make sure the security staff are aware of it.
Finally, make sure that the airline serves food during the flight, especially if your flight is a short one. Some airlines do not serve food, though they often sell them on board. It might be a good idea to carry some snacks with you any way.
Similar advice applies to those who are traveling by train.
Diabetes doesn’t take a holiday, even though you might. Make sure you take the right precautions when you are traveling. It is simple to keep your blood sugar levels under control if you are vigilant.