I have always considered myself a seasoned traveller. From a young age I was lucky enough to be going on holidays abroad, and for a few years I even lived in the Caribbean. I have always been comfortable with airplanes and airports and knew the process pretty well.
Everything changed when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Suddenly there was a lot more to think about. I couldn’t just fly though the security checks anymore. Even now, over 4 years later, I can get uptight as we approach them as I mentally gear up to have to explain myself if necessary. It’s not as simple as it used to be.
These are my top 5 tips for flying when you have diabetes:
1. Carry Spares
Take the biggest hand luggage bag you are allowed, as you will need to take all your spares for you trip with you. You can’t risk putting them in your suitcase, as if it gets lots for any reason you would end up in a bit of a pickle!
As a pump user I work out how many sets and reservoirs I am going to need for my trip, then double it. That is the number that I pack. I then have to prepare for my pump to break or fail, so I pack insulin pens and basal and bolus insulin and needles too. On top of all of that I carry a spare blood glucose meter, as well as twice as many testing strips and ketone strips than I think I might need.
It’s a lot of luggage!
2. Carry Snacks
Many people choose to treat hypos with juices. This is usually fine, but obviously you aren’t allowed more than 100ml when going through airport security. When I am flying I always make sure I carry haribo or jelly babies in my hand luggage.
Going through security can be stressful and that makes people react in different ways. For me – stress makes my blood sugars plummet. I always factor in needing a snack around the security checks when I am packing my hand luggage. I also make sure I have plenty snack for while I’m up in the air, both hypo treatments and long acting carbs. Its better to have too many and not use them all than to run out.
3. Do Not Go Through The X-Ray
This one only really applies to insulin pump users. The advice is that the x-ray machines can mess around with your pump and they should not go through them. Leave the pump on you while you go through the metal detectors. They will often choose to swab it too.
These days more and more airports have x-ray scanners for people too. These are not safe for pumps either and you have the right to request a pat down instead of going in it. Alternatively, you may remove you pump and have a friend or family member hold it while you have the x-ray.
4. Carry letters
I have 2 letters from my hospital. One states that I have type 1 diabetes and that I am required to carry insulin and needles. The other states that I have an insulin pump. I have never actually been required to show either of these at the hospital yet, but they give me peace of mind knowing I am able to explain what I am carrying if necessary.
5. Stay Calm & Be Patient
If you’re having your pump swabbed it can take a few minutes. If they ask to pat you down it can be a nuisance to you, but they’re just doing their job. Getting agitated doesn’t do anything, so take a deep breath and you’ll be through soon enough!
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