Counseling Traveling Patients About Diabetes Management

Lourdes Cross, PharmD, BCACP, CDE, and Neil Vasavada, PharmD Candidate
Published Online: Monday, June 3rd, 2019
Patients with diabetes may be concerned about difficulties with managing their health while traveling. In 1 survey, up to 1/3 of individuals reported that guidance from a health care professional would help reduce their fears.1

Health care professionals should discuss with patients should their travel plans before going on a trip to ensure that all necessary supplies—medications, glucose test strips, lancets, etc.—are enough to cover the duration of the trip.

In addition, prevention of acute complications, management of travel-related issues, and need for immunizations should be reviewed with a health care professional.

The CDC and American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggest the following for traveling with diabetes.2–6


Packing Supplies

Recommended items to take on a trip include:

Maintenance
  • Diabetes medications/insulin pump
  • Syringes/needles
  • Lancing device and needles
  • Glucometer and test strips
  • Urine ketone test strips
  • Cotton swabs
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Band-aids
  • Sharps container
  • Glucose log sheet
  • Transport bag with ice/cooling gel pack
Emergency Supplies
  • Glucose tablets/hard candies
  • Glucagon emergency kit
  • Medical identification
  • Health insurance cards
Snacks
  • Juice
  • Regular soda
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Fruit

According to the ADA, best practice is to pack at least twice as much medications and glucose testing supplies as normally needed to minimize complications due to travel delays or lost luggage.3 Many manufacturers of insulin pumps will provide a loaner for international travel.

The CDC recommends carrying medications in the pharmacy bottles they came in or asking the dispensing pharmacist to print extra labels that can attach to plastic storage bags.2 Although not required by law, a physician letter describing the patient’s medical conditions, medication regimen, and medical necessity to bring supplies can expedite the screening process.

It is also important to educate the patient on the importance of preparing for emergency situations.

Patients should consider packing supplies that can treat hypoglycemia, such as glucose tablets, hard candies that contain simple sugars, and a glucagon kit. Traveling with healthy snacks is ideal to manage hypoglycemia,3 and patients should be encouraged to wear medical identification accessories to alert others of their health condition in the event of an emergency.7


A version of this article was originally published by Pharmacy Times. Visit PharmacyTimes.com to view the full article. 



References
  1. Burnett JCD. Long- and short-haul travel by air: Issues for people with diabetes on insulin. J Travel Med. 2006;13(5):255-260.
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 21 Tips for traveling with diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/traveling-with-diabetes.html. Accessed May 16, 2019.
  3. American Diabetes Association. When you travel. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/when-you-travel.html. Accessed May 16, 2019.
  4. Bettes TN, McKenas DK. Medical advice for commercial air travelers. Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(3):801-810.
  5. Lumber T, Strainic PA. Have insulin, will travel: planning ahead will make traveling with insulin smooth sailing. Diabetes Forecast. 2005;58(8):50-54.
  6. Boerner H. Tips to trip by: the art and science of traveling with diabetes. Diabetes Forecast. 2008;61(5):42-45.
  7. American Diabetes Association. Know your rights. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/know-your-rights/discrimination/law-enforcement/know-your-rights.html. Accessed May 20, 2019.
  8. Pearson TL. Practical aspects of insulin pen devices. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010;4(3):522-531.
  9. Burns B. TSA travel tips: travelers with diabetes or other medical conditions. https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2014/04/01/tsa-travel-tips-travelers-diabetes-or-other-medical-conditions. Accessed May 16, 2019.


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