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Travelling when you have diabetes

Travelling when you have diabetes
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Don’t let worries about diabetes stop you from having a rewarding travel experience

When you have a long-term condition such as diabetes you may wonder if you can safely travel abroad. But well managed diabetes should not stop you travelling if you need to and want to. Here are some things to think about before you go.

Get advice before you leave

We ask all travellers to make an appointment with a travel health specialist six to eight weeks before departure. But before that, why not ask your diabetes team about your planned journey. They can talk you through managing your diabetes care regime if you are crossing time zones. They can also tell you how to manage heat or cold; and how to work around dietary changes and different activity levels during your trip.

Ask your diabetes team for specific advice about travelling with a medical device if you use a monitor or pump. Some of these devices should not be put through airport scanners and X-ray machines.

Your diabetes team might also have some information that you should share with your travel health adviser.

We also recommend a quick enquiry to the airline you will be travelling with. Some airlines will want to see documentation about drugs and medical equipment that you are carrying. Other airlines will have specific guidance if you are using a pump or monitor during your flight. Your airline will want to know early on if you need any special accommodations during your journey, too.

Finally, don’t forget to organise travel health insurance – if you don’t think you need it, read our article on healthcare abroad! Insurance will also help you if you need to delay your trip for health reasons.

Research your destination when travelling with diabetes

Even if your diabetes is well managed at home you may find that changes to your routine or diet affect your condition during your trip. It’s a good idea to research the healthcare facilities at your destination and to have a plan for if you fall ill. For example, you might usually phone your diabetes team at home if you have stomach upset, but time differences could make this difficult when you are travelling.

We have an article about getting medical help abroad which might give you a few more ideas for planning your trip.

Do I need documentation to travel if I have diabetes?

Ask your diabetes team for letters and notes about your diabetes; and if you can get them translated into the language at your destination. You may find that immigration or security staff ask questions about needles and syringes in your luggage, or about pumps or monitors you are wearing. A letter from your doctor should clear up any problems.

Consider getting a medical ID bracelet, too.

How do I travel safely with medications?

Consider taking at least twice the medical supplies you would normally take to manage your diabetes, particularly in the covid-19 pandemic situation, as delays do occur, or you may be required to quarantine at your destination.

Keep meds in their original packaging, and bring prescriptions and a doctor’s letter to clear up any queries.

Ask your normal healthcare provider for prescriptions for your usual medications. Even if you plan to bring supplies for your entire trip, a prescription may be needed if your luggage goes missing or if you experience delays.

How do I get medication abroad?

Medications are supplied in different forms around the world so you cannot rely on local pharmacies for your usual meds. If you know you need a specific brand or dose, bring supplies from home.

In a remote area or on an island you may have to wait for a delivery of meds to come in, so bringing your own supplies is the best option.

Can I travel with sharps?

You may not be able to dispose of sharps safely and responsibly at your destination, particularly if the health infrastructure is not well developed. The best option is to bring a sharps container and take it back to Canada for safe disposal. Also be aware of how you dispose of medical waste apart from sharps. In some places rubbish is sorted by hand, and careless disposal puts workers at risk. Where personal medical waste is concerned, if in doubt, ship it out.

Where to get more advice about travelling with diabetes

If you need more advice, Diabetes Canada has some tips on air travel, as well as on other aspects of managing diabetes. The US CDC has 21 tips for travelling with diabetes. And we’ve got an article about travelling with long-term conditions generally.

I’m looking for a travel clinic in Calgary

Look no further than Canadian Travel Clinics if you need travel vaccinations in Calgary. We can offer evening and early morning appointments for your convenience. Book online now.