If the world is your oyster, should you let diabetes be a deterrent when it comes to living your best life? No, you don’t, if you are well prepared. The last we checked (2015), there were more than 62 million1 Indians who were affected by one or the other form of diabetes, and the numbers are expected to touch 98 million by 2030. These statistics may look alarming but they certainly don’t mean that you have to hit snooze on your plans of travelling the world.
We agree that there are a few hassles that could occur if you’re not equipped to handle emergencies, but that’s what we are here for! Here is a complete checklist of things you need to do before setting off on a vacation.
1. See your Doctor:
Book an appointment with your healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks before your departure, and provide them with the complete itinerary of your travel, so that they can estimate the kind of changes you will need in your insulin dosage. This depends on a variety of factors, including physical activity, food, time zone, weather conditions, etc. You may also need to carry a letter and a prescription from your doctor while you’re travelling. The letter explains what needs to be done for your diabetes and has the doctor’s emergency contact details, while the prescription lists your pills, syringes, alternative medicines, etc. Take the necessary immunisations to avoid any risk of infections or allergies during the trip.
2. Share Your Concerns:
If you are boarding a plane or a ship, or even taking a road/trekking trip, do share your requirement of diabetes-friendly meals in advance with the crew, or inform your travel partners about your food specifications. Also, make sure that you have the right provisions to keep your insulin cool, both on- and off- board.
3. In Case Of Emergencies:
Inform your travel partner(s) ahead of time about the care and precautions needed in case of emergencies. Better still, write it down on a piece of paper, including emergency numbers, your doctor’s contact details and your medications along with the course of action. Keep copies of it handy.
Read this to find out why it is important to take your insulin at the prescribed time.
4. The Ideal Insulin Pouch:
Your insulin pouch should have the following things:
- The insulin pen and extra refill cartridges based on length of stay
- Fresh needles
- Bottle of spirit
- A copy of the emergency procedure details (as mentioned in the previous point)
5. Carry Snacks:
Stash handy bottles of juice, some crackers, glucose tablets or gels in your bag, just in case.
6. Don’t Pack Light:
And by that, we mean your medical supplies. Carry your regular dosage of pills, syringes, blood sugar monitor, strips, meters, and pump. Additionally, carry an extra two-week supply: it’s better to be safe than sorry.
7. Store Your Insulin Right
The ideal temperature for storing insulin is between 4-6 degrees centigrade; essentially, it’s mandatory to keep it below 25 degrees centigrade. If it’s too cold, it will freeze, and if it’s too hot, it will break down. Invest in a good insulated cooler bag that can help your insulin survive, even if you don’t have access to an ice pack or refrigerator for a few days. Make sure to store it away from extreme temperatures. Keep reusable ice gel packs and some thin towels handy to wrap your insulin in, just in case the cooler bag has no compartments.
8. Time Zone Check:
If you will be changing time zones, plan the dosage ahead of time with your doctor; ask him/her to adjust the treatment schedule accordingly. On the day you travel, you might need to adjust your dose based on the changing mealtime because you have gained or lost time flying.
9. Stay Active But Alert:
Generally, travelling involves more physical activity than normal, so keep in mind your blood sugar levels even more.
- Keep checking it often and always keep some snacks handy.
- If your journey is long, don’t stay put in one place: move, stretch and especially pay attention to your feet.
- Stay alert for any bruises, cuts or inflammations.
- Carry an extra pair of comfortable shoes and socks.
10. Indulge With Care:
While on vacation, you might be tempted to sample the local cuisine, but remember, moderation is key. Do not binge too much on anything, and check the ingredients of anything that looks particularly unique and unknown.
Also, be mindful of your alcohol consumption as booze tends to flow freely on any vacay. Alcohol is usually loaded with calories, and you do not want your glucose levels to spike up dangerously.
11. Break The Language Barrier:
While travelling, ensure you know the basics in the local language of your destination. You should be able to inquire about things such as “Where is the hospital?” or tell someone “I have diabetes”. You can also keep placards ready. Having a translation tool on your mobile would do too. It’s important to get your point across in case of an emergency.
12. Wear Your Medical ID:
Or carry it along always, just to let people know what type of diabetes you have.
What To Do When You Miss Your Dosage:
If you miss a dose of insulin, then taking it within 2 hours works, but if it goes beyond that, talk to your doctor as the blood sugar levels may shoot up dangerously. In that case, you may have to take rapid-acting insulin to bring your sugar levels down.
In case of an accidental overdose, do take some fast-acting carbohydrates (glucose, sweets) immediately. In all seriousness, you might experience disorientation or even seizures.
Talk to a medical advisor immediately.
Keep this checklist in mind and be sure to have a stress-free vacation!
- Gale, Jason (November 7, 2010). “India’s Diabetes Epidemic Cuts Down Millions Who Escape Poverty”, American Diabetes Association Journal