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Diabetes

Preparing for Travel

Modern day travel can be stressful for anyone and sometimes especially so for those with a medical condition such as diabetes. However with careful preparation there is no reason why the trip cannot be a pleasurable, rewarding experience. Not all people with diabetes require insulin, therefore some advice (where stated) will not apply to everyone.

If possible, plan well in advance of the trip.

  • Discuss travel plans with your Diabetic Consultant, Diabetic Nurse Specialist or General Practitioner (GP) depending on where you receive diabetic care.
  • Request a covering letter from your GP explaining the need to carry medication, insulin, needles, syringes etc. If there is a charge for this service, ask for a certificate that can also be used for future travel.
  • Carry or wear some form of diabetic identification, particularly if hypoglycaemic attacks are a concern.
  • Appropriate travel health insurance is recommended for all overseas travellers and diabetes is considered a pre-existing medical condition and must be declared to the insurer before travel. Many regular insurance companies do not charge extra for insuring people with diabetes, if they have no complications of diabetes or other problems. Some insurance companies will not replace lost, stolen or damaged insulin or other supplies.
  • If travel is within Europe then to access reciprocal health care, UK residents should produce their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC); available online. Medical insurance is still recommended to cover non refundable costs. Difficulties are sometimes encountered finding National Health Service doctors in holiday resorts.

During the Journey

  • Be prepared for any eventuality e.g. delays, cancellations, rerouting or stopovers.
  • Carry extra food and snacks to ensure adequate intake or perhaps supplement airline food.
  • Some countries may not allow certain fresh foods through customs and cereal bars, crisps and biscuits may be more appropriate to carry.
  • If prone to travel sickness you may consider taking an anti-sickness tablet in advance of travel or wear pressure point wrist bands. Persistent vomiting can lead to hypoglycaemia.
  • It can be important to let a travelling companion and/or group leader know you have diabetes particularly if undertaking sporting activities or adventure travel.
  • Ideally for more adventurous trips you should travel with someone familiar with possible problems that might occur such as hypoglycaemia.

Food and Drink

  • When travelling to a country where English is not spoken and you do not speak the local language a phrase book can be useful to translate menus and to ask for specific foods such as bread, potatoes, rice pasta etc.
  • Those with diabetes are generally not more prone to gastric upsets but the consequences can be more serious. For example vomiting can lead to hypoglycaemia due to reduced calorie intake while more severe diarrhoeal illnesses especially if associated with fever may lead to hyperglycaemia and ketosis in those dependent on insulin.
  • Taking care over food and water hygiene can prevent some gastrointestinal infections and this should be considered before travel since equipment for water sterilising, for example, may be purchased in advance.
  • Diet soft drinks are available in many countries but in some of the less affluent they may not available outside major cities. Diet drinks may be available in shops but sometimes not in cafes and restaurants.
  • In North Africa, Middle East and Asia, for example, some commonly available safe drinks such as mint tea, apple tea and coffee are often full of sugar unless you request otherwise.
  • If unwell follow the sick day rules. Information can be obtained from your diabetes specialist or from Diabetes UK (address at bottom of page).

Climate

  • Maintaining a high fluid intake is important to compensate for loss in hot climates due to sweating.

Foot and Skin Care

  • During travel make sure shoes are not too tight as feet can swell, it might be helpful to slacken laces or straps.
  • A walk each hour can reduce the chance of ankle swelling.
  • If considering flight socks, discuss this with your diabetic care provider as they are not suitable for everyone and require careful measuring beforehand.
  • If hospital shoes are normally worn then also wear them on holiday. Changing to ordinary shoes could cause ulcers.
  • Never, ever walk barefoot, wear protective footwear on the sand and in the water.
  • Avoid sunburn, particularly to feet and legs by using protective sunscreens or covering up.
  • Prevent dry skin by using moisturizers, especially on heels that crack easily particularly if wearing sandals.
  • Moist skin can lead to fungal infections such as athletes foot.
  • Examine feet regularly and seek medical attention if any problems arise.
  • Take first aid kit for minor injuries.
     
     
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