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Tips for Flying if You Have Diabetes

Posted by Mihir Shah, M.D. on Dec 24, 2016 8:02:00 AM

If you’re living with a chronic disease, it’s important to take extra precautions when travelling to maintain your health. Here’s what you need to consider if you have diabetes and will be traveling by air during the holidays or the coming year. 

Know Your Risks

Flying itself is generally not an issue for diabetics. You can be X-rayed at check-in with no problems and your medicine will be safe to pass through the X-ray machine in your carry-on luggage, as well. That being said, a percentage of diabetics do experience problems due to their condition. These problems, however, have more to do with a lack of preparation than complications from traveling itself. 

Prepare Accordingly

Before you leave, make sure you think of any scenario that can occur while you’re flying that might cause problems with your diabetes. This can be anything from not having enough to snack on to regulate your blood-sugar to making sure you have insulin, if you need it. Most people who experience complications didn’t properly prepare for delays.

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Make a Checklist

Here are some suggestions you might want to consider if you’ll be flying during the holidays and have diabetes: 

  • Get a letter from your doctor – this might not be necessary, but it won’t hurt to have it in case TSA agents have questions about your insulin, insulin pump or syringes.
  • Pack your medication in your carry-on bag and make sure your medication is in pharmacy-labeled bottles.

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  • Adjust your insulin as directed by your doctor. There might be time zone differences to consider and you don’t want your blood-sugar levels to get out of control. If you’re in a place where you’ll be walking more than normal, your body may need more insulin.
  • Plan for meals. You could be delayed on the tarmac or stuck in traffic in an unfamiliar city. Make sure you have enough to snack on in these situations so that you don’t start to feel sick.
  • Let the flight crew know about your diabetes – whether you mention it to them or wear medical alert jewelry, they need to know in case something happens during the flight.
  • It is possible that your doctor might suggest you turn off your insulin pump during takeoff and landing – some research shows that these time periods can cause pumps to deliver more insulin than normal. Talk to your doctor to see what is best. 
  • Remember, if you have any questions or feel uneasy, talk to your doctor before you travel to help make sure you’re well-prepared. 

    Shah_Mihir.jpg Dr. Mihir Shah is a board-certified Internal Medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold. He’s accepting new and current patients at The Vintage Clinic. Dr. Shah’s clinical interests include helping patients manage acute illnesses as well as chronic medical conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and obesity.

Topics: air travel with diabetes, flying with chronic disease

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