How To

How to Travel with Insulin

Tips on how to travel with insulin; When preparing for a long trip or vacation, packing medications, especially insulin for individuals with diabetes, can add complexity to the process. It’s crucial to determine the appropriate amount of insulin to bring and understand how to pack it correctly, such as using an insulin travel case. As you plan your journey, consider the following essential factors when traveling with insulin:

1. Bring more insulin and supplies than you need

When traveling, it’s important to bring more insulin and supplies than you anticipate needing. Here are some reasons and considerations for bringing extra insulin and diabetic supplies:

  1. Dietary changes: When traveling to new destinations, your diet may change. You may try different foods and consume more carbohydrates and sugars than usual. This can affect your insulin requirements, and you may need to adjust your dosage accordingly.
  2. Unplanned changes and delays: Traveling often comes with unexpected circumstances, such as flight cancellations or delays. Having extra insulin ensures that you won’t run out during unforeseen situations.
  3. Recommended quantity: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests bringing double the amount of insulin you think you’ll need. This not only covers potential changes in your insulin requirements but also provides a safety net in case of travel disruptions.
  4. Distribute insulin and supplies: To mitigate the risk of losing all your insulin and supplies, consider keeping them in separate bags. This way, if one bag is lost or misplaced, you’ll still have a backup supply available.
  5. Essential supplies: In addition to insulin, make sure to pack essential diabetic supplies such as alcohol swabs for cleaning, a blood glucose monitor, test strips, a lancing device, lancets, glucose tablets or gel for low blood sugar, a glucagon kit for severe low blood sugar, insulin syringes or pen needles if necessary, an insulin travel case, ketone test strips for detecting diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), and a sharps disposal container for safe disposal of syringes and pen needles.

By bringing extra insulin and a comprehensive set of diabetic supplies, you can ensure that you’re well-prepared for your travels and maintain optimal diabetes management throughout your trip.

2. Store insulin correctly while traveling to your destination

When traveling, storing unopened insulin in a refrigerator within the temperature range of 36ºF to 46ºF is recommended. However, this may not always be feasible during your journey. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Traveling by car: If you’re traveling by car, you can store insulin in a cooler. Ensure that the insulin is not in direct contact with ice or ice packs to prevent it from becoming too cold.
  2. Flying or for convenience: If you prefer a smaller and more convenient option, there are insulin travel cases available on the market. These cases are specifically designed to store insulin and keep it cool for multiple hours or days. They can easily fit into your carry-on bag, providing a practical alternative to a larger cooler.

When flying, keep the following points in mind regarding airport security and insulin:

  • Exemption from volume limits: People with diabetes are exempt from the maximum volume limit of 3.4 oz or 100 mL for carrying liquids through airport security.
  • Separate insulin and supplies: Keep your insulin and diabetic supplies separate from your other belongings, and inform the security agents before your bags go through the screening process.
  • Hand inspection: Consider requesting a hand inspection for your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, as X-ray machines may potentially damage these devices. Inform the security personnel about your concerns.
  • TSA notification card: Obtaining a U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) notification card before flying can discreetly inform security agents about your medical condition, which may affect the screening process. Alternatively, you can acquire a letter of medical necessity from your healthcare provider.
  • Avoid checking insulin: It’s advisable not to store your insulin in checked luggage to prevent potential damage or loss. Checked bags may be handled roughly, and it’s important to have your insulin with you at all times.

By considering these guidelines, you can ensure the proper storage and transportation of your insulin during your travels, whether by car or plane.

3. Store insulin correctly when you reach your destination

Although it is generally recommended to store unopened insulin in the refrigerator, certain insulin products can remain outside of the fridge for a specific duration. The length of time varies depending on the product and can range from 10 to 56 days.

While it is safe to use insulin immediately after taking it out of the fridge, injecting cold insulin can be uncomfortable and painful. To mitigate this, you can allow the insulin to reach room temperature before using it. Once opened, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how long the opened insulin can be kept at room temperature.

In most cases, opened insulin vials can be returned to the fridge after use. The duration for which an opened vial can remain outside the fridge depends on the specific product and can range from 10 to 56 days. However, if you are using an insulin pen, once it has been opened, it should be kept at room temperature throughout its usage period. The longevity of an opened insulin pen varies based on the specific product and can range from 14 to 56 days.

For individuals using an insulin pump, the duration for which insulin remains effective inside the pump depends on the type of insulin and the specific pump being used. It can range from 2 to 7 days. If there are conflicting instructions between the insulin product and pump regarding the duration, it is advisable to follow the instructions that recommend the shortest time for changing out the insulin.

It is crucial to note that insulin should not be stored in the freezer, as freezing can compromise the quality and safety of the insulin.

Follow these guidelines if you want to travel with insulin: you can ensure proper storage and usage of insulin during your travels.

4. Avoid exposing your insulin to extreme temperatures

When traveling, it’s important to protect it if you have to travel with insulin, protect it from extreme temperatures, whether it’s hot or cold. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. High temperatures: Insulin can lose its effectiveness when exposed to very high temperatures. It is recommended to avoid exposing insulin to temperatures above 77ºF to 86ºF (25ºC to 30ºC). However, the maximum safe temperature can vary depending on the specific insulin product. If you’re traveling to a hot destination, take precautions to prevent your insulin from being exposed to excessive heat. Avoid leaving your insulin outside or in a car for extended periods of time, as these environments can quickly reach high temperatures.
  2. Low temperatures: Cold temperatures can also affect the quality and effectiveness of insulin. If you’re traveling to a cold destination, keep your insulin close to your body to prevent it from getting too cold. Storing it on the inside of your jacket in a pocket or using an insulated travel case can help maintain a suitable temperature for the insulin.

By being mindful of temperature conditions and taking appropriate measures to protect your insulin, you can ensure that it remains effective and safe for use throughout your travels, whether you’re in a hot beach setting or enjoying activities in a cold mountain environment.

5. Know how to adjust your insulin dose during travel

It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider regarding the administration of insulin while traveling. They can provide specific guidance on adjusting your insulin dose if your blood sugar levels become too high and offer recommendations for entering different climates or time zones.

A change in climate or time zone can impact your insulin requirements. For instance, when traveling to a different time zone, you may need to modify the timing of your insulin doses. It is crucial to discuss these adjustments with your healthcare provider before your travel plans.

By seeking advice from your healthcare provider and making necessary adaptations to your insulin schedule, you can better manage your blood sugar levels and ensure a safe and successful travel experience.

6. Prepare for the worst if you intend to travel with insulin

If you have diabetes and require to travel with insulin, it’s important to plan ahead when traveling to ensure the continuity of your health management. While unexpected situations can arise, proper preparation can help minimize stress and ensure your well-being. Consider the following tips for medical assistance during your travels:

  1. Research healthcare providers and pharmacies: Before you travel, familiarize yourself with healthcare facilities and pharmacies in the area you’ll be visiting. Knowing where to find medical assistance can be invaluable in case of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.
  2. Consider travel insurance: Check if your insurance plan covers medical expenses related to travel. If not, it may be wise to purchase travel insurance that includes coverage for any potential healthcare needs while away from home.
  3. Wear a medical ID: Wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace that contains information about your medical conditions, insulin usage, and medication allergies. This can provide crucial information to healthcare providers in case of an emergency.
  4. Carry emergency contact information: Always keep a card or document with emergency contact information readily available. This should include contact numbers for your healthcare provider, emergency contacts, and any pertinent medical information.
  5. Learn useful phrases: If you’re traveling to a place with a different language, learn key phrases that may be helpful, such as “I have diabetes” or “Orange juice, please” for instances of hypoglycemia. This can facilitate communication with locals and assist in getting the necessary help if needed.
  6. Obtain written prescriptions: Ask your healthcare provider for written prescriptions of your current medications, including insulin, before you travel. Having written prescriptions, preferably with the generic names of your medications, can be beneficial if you need to replace lost or misplaced medications during your trip.

By following these tips and taking proactive measures, you can better manage your diabetes and ensure a safer and more enjoyable travel experience. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and recommendations before embarking on your journey.