Tips for Air Travel with Diabetes Medications

With an estimated 246.1 million fellow flyers at the check-in counters, the summer of 2018 has been the busiest travel season in the history of air travel for the US. Whether you’re traveling during what remains of the summer or taking an off-season fall trip, traveling by plane can be more complicated for individuals with diabetes.

If you’re managing a diagnosis of diabetes, you may find it harder to manage your blood glucose levels because you’ll be dealing with changes to your routine, the possibility of flight delays, and limited healthy food options. Boarding a plane with your diabetes supplies can also come with its own challenges. In this article, we’ll outline some tips on how to make your airport and flight experience as smooth as possible.

Check Blood Glucose Levels More Frequently

When traveling or changing your routine, it’s important to keep a close watch on your blood glucose levels. For insulin pump users, a rechargeable insulin pump with continuous glucose monitoring (or CGM) provides users with multiple readings, roughly one reading every five minutes, throughout the day and night. This collection of continuous readings helps you see trends in blood glucose levels, so that you can make informed decisions regarding your health. The rechargeable battery can also come in handy if stuck on a plane longer than expected with no disposable batteries available.

Have a Plan 

Now that you know you’ll be checking your blood glucose levels more often, it’s important to have a diabetes management plan for travel and to stick to your routine as much as possible. Before traveling, consider talking to your doctor about how to manage blood glucose levels during the flight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that individuals with diabetes take the following actions when traveling:

Pack healthy snacks to keep with you, like nuts, seeds, and fruit. For longer or international flights, choose a meal option that best meets your dietary needs.

Consider purchasing international medical travelers’ insurance if you’re traveling outside the country. If you’re traveling within the US, check your policy to make sure it covers care out-of-state.

Get up and walk around every hour to avoid the risk of developing blood clots (a common health concern for individuals with diabetes).

Get Familiar with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Regulations for Security Screening and Carry-On Guidelines 

Going through the security checkpoint line can be a cause of stress if you’re not sure what supplies you can bring in your carry-on, or how they’ll be checked by TSA security. It’s important to tell the TSA officers that you have diabetes and to make your supplies available to be easily and safely checked. To help communicate this, consider asking your doctor for a note explaining your diagnosis and which supplies you need to carry with you on board.

TSA allows people managing a health condition to carry on liquids and cold gel-packs greater than 3 ounces. These items will be screened normally and may also require additional screening by TSA personnel. You’ll also need to bring your prescription as proof that the medication belongs to you.

Most insulin pumps are designed to withstand metal detectors, but these devices shouldn’t be brought through the x-ray machines used to scan luggage, or through the full-body scanner. You can ask to be screened without having to disconnect your pump either by going through the metal detector or by requesting a pat-down. But it’s important to let the officer known beforehand that you’re wearing an insulin pump and that you’d like to keep it connected.

For specific instructions on how to pack your diabetes supplies in your carry-on and how to notify security for the TSA checkpoint, visit the official TSA website for air travel tips for individuals with diabetes.


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