Planning Your Holiday With Diabetes
Diabetic check up
As with all pre-existing medical conditons, its best to visit your general practitioner (GP) or diabetes specialist a good month before departure, perhaps earlier if you’re heading somewhere exotic as vaccinations may be needed. Tell them of your plans making sure you get enough diabetic supplies to cover your holiday. Most GP’s will prescribe 2-3 months at a time if needed. Make sure you guide them, explaining our trip in detail. Its better to carry too much than too little as you’ll hear often in our Diabetic Travel Advice pages.
If you’re going be away for a while, it might be worth getting your 6 monthly diabetes checks up’s, HbA1c etc. Your annual eye check might also be due. Ask and get these sorted before you fly.
- The majority of vaccines are given about a month before departure, so leave yourself enough time to arrange these with your GP. Run your travel plans past your Doctor as they will know what you need, if anything. Reassure them that you have a good level of travel insurance for diabetes. Plus if a UK resident, check your EHIC is still valid. Although this should only act as to compliment your insurance not replace it. Its free so order one now.
Doctor’s letter (make multiple copies)
You need a doctor’s letter for customs when boarding a plane with diabetic medical supplies and in case you need medical treatment overseas. This is extremely important!
Don’t be offended if asked for proof of your diabetes at the airport. From a national security point of view, their concern is valid. Insulin is a liquid and there are strict rules surrounding the quantities’ taken on board a plane. To avoid questions or a bag search, volunteer your diabetes just before your bag is scanned. I do this every time I fly and have had complete co-operation. There really is no need for this to be a worry.
The Diabetic Cover Letter
To cover all possible scenarios, make the letter pretty comprehensive. Not only can it act as a validation of your diabetes at the airport, if needed, but also a useful list of diabetic supplies in case you need to visit the doctors whilst overseas. Again, the more information the better, the Doctors letter is one of the most important sections of the Diabetic Travel Advice.
- Your full name and address as it is on your passport
- The type of diabetes you have
- Insulin‘s and medications that you take (generic not brand names, and dosages. Include insulin type, ie. short, intermediate or long acting)
- Name of insulin injection device, Novorapid etc
- List the accessories you need such as needles, lancets, blood glucose meter, pump and accessories
- If you have a pump, make sure it states that it should not be detached from your body.
NB. I travel with a letter from my UK medical centre… stapled to this is my diabetic repeat prescription doc. This covers all information mentioned above and is a great way of validating your diabetes. That said, it should in no way replace a bespoke letter from your GP, just compliment it.
- Work out in detail how much diabetic medication you’ll need for your trip and then take more! A change in routine such as a holiday, will probably give you a slightly higher glucose reading, hence the need for a greater supply
- Testing strips, ref above, you may need more whilst travelling
- Take your repeat prescription document, just in case you run into difficulties and need to visit the doctor, or lose or damage your diabetes medication
- If you take oral diabetes medication, you may not need to change your dosages. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator
Be aware of the climate you’re visiting, is there a chance your insulin could get too hot or too cold? A cooling bag such as a Frio is a must for any diabetic, not only does it protect your supplies from possible breakage, but keeps your meds at the optimum temperature during your travels. NB. More details on storage later.
Check your levels regularly in warm climates, symptoms of a low blood sugar (hypo) often include perspiration and dizziness… not unlike a warm day on the beach of a hike into the mountains!
PDF Copy of our Diabetic Travel Advice
Comments or questions are welcome.
Our Diabetic Travel Advice pages are presented to compliment your travel plans and should in no way replace the unquestionable advice and medical care given to you by your health care team, wherever you are in the World