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Make Summer Traveling with Diabetes More Doable with these Safety Tips

July 29, 2019

When traveling with a chronic illness that requires daily treatment, such as diabetes, it’s essential to take the proper precautions to ensure a safe, healthy, and enjoyable trip! In the heat of summer, it’s especially important to manage the temperature of your medications to maintain potency.

According to the American Diabetes Association, out of 30 million Americans living with type 2 or type 1 diabetes, more than seven million of them need insulin and one million need insulin pumps. If either the insulin, or necessary medical supplies, are misplaced or ruined, it can be incredibly detrimental.

Anthony Cannon, MD, endocrinologist at Jefferson Health in New Jersey, has been treating patients with diabetes for more than 30 years, and has many tips to offer to help you make the most of your summer, free of health concerns.

“If you’re flying, your first goal should be getting through TSA (Transportation Security Administration) checks in a safe and timely manner,” said Dr. Cannon. “By safe, I mean without damaging any equipment, such as a pump.”

Tips for TSA Checks at Airports: 

  • Do NOT let your medical supplies pass through a security scanner, as it’s likely to damage/disable them. If a piece of equipment is ruined, insurance will not cover it. Instead, encourage TSA to “wand” over your bag.
  • Ask your doctor for a letter stating what you’re allowed to carry while traveling (i.e., blood glucose meter with lancets, strips, and control solutions; syringes; infusion pump syringes; pump batteries; insulin vials; insulin pens; glucagon emergency kit, etc.) If you know that you’re travelling to a country that isn’t fluent in English, your doctor can have the letter translated.
  • Bring a TSA medication notification card to aid in the speed of this process.

“Your other main concern when leaving for vacation – whether you’re flying or just taking a local day trip – should be the temperature,” Dr. Cannon explained. “This will help you determine how to properly pack your insulin.”

Insulin should be stored in either a refrigerator or cool environment and kept at 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit. It can still work up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but after that point, it will begin to break down.

“Ideally, transporting your insulin should be convenient and easy to monitor,” said Dr. Cannon. “Years ago, people commonly used ‘ice baths’ or coolers, but they can be bulky and messy. While you may still do that, there are new advancements in insulated travel cases specifically for your insulin and other equipment.”

Dr. Cannon suggests checking out a comprehensive list of insulin travel cases (as well as medical smart thermometers) before deciding which one is best for you.

“These cases are affordable, durable, and hold their temperature for close to 48 hours,” continued Dr. Cannon. “They’re not only for insulin vials; you can place all your supplies in them. I would suggest buying two or more. You can pack them separately, and if one is misplaced or ruined, you’ll have a backup!”

When you are far from home and are relying on your medication working, it’s essential to practice common sense, Dr. Cannon added, offering the following tips:

  • Pack your medical supplies FIRST and place them in plain sight, so you don’t forget them.
  • Always avoid the trunk or the glove compartment, which have little to no air flow.
  • Never stow these items away where you can’t get to them for long periods of time.

“If you follow this advice and manage your medication, diabetes will not prevent you from living your life,” said Dr. Cannon. “When you outsmart the heat, you can travel just about anywhere.”

To learn more about Endocrinology Services offered at Jefferson Health in New Jersey, click HERE