International Travel & About Diabetes

A diabetic patient may face many health problems, particularly problem to maintain normal glucose level in blood. Traveler should be conscious of the problems he/she may face during international travel as well as immediately after return. Alteration in glucose control and changes in insulin requirements (especially if patient is type I diabetes which is insulin dependent diabetes) are common problems among patients with diabetes who travel.

Causes of alteration in glucose control during international travel:

Changes in time zone and jetlag can cause changes in blood glucose level during travel. Due to jetlag and time zone change, the sleep pattern of traveler with diabetes may be disturbed and cause poor control of blood glucose. Due to change in time zone, the timing of food as well as amount of food intake changes which can adversely affect the blood glucose level. There may also be less physical activity (during long air travel) or excess physical activity during travel and adjustment of insulin and other anti-diabetic medication may be difficult.

To do’s during travel by diabetic patient:

The traveler with diabetes should pack diabetic medications (including a bottle of regular insulin for emergencies-insulin is stable for approximately 3 months at room temperature but should be kept as cool as possible), insulin syringes and needles, equipment and supplies for glucose monitoring, and snacks in carry-on luggage (which may be required when there is low blood sugar level).

The name and telephone number of the home physician and a card and bracelet listing the medical problems of the diabetic patient and the type and dose of insulin (in case of type I diabetes or needing insulin in type II diabetes) used should accompany the traveler.

If you are traveling eastward (e.g., from the United States to Europe), the morning insulin may need to be decreased (which may be the dose on arrival). The blood glucose level should then ideally be checked during the day to check if additional insulin is required. For flights westward, with lengthening of the day, an additional dose of regular insulin may be required.

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