Tips for Traveling with an Insulin Pump

The Insulin Pump Program at Joslin Diabetes Center is the largest insulin pump program in the world. We care for patients of all ages, including some of the youngest and oldest pump users in the United States.

Traveling with an insulin pump requires careful planning and preparation, and may be complicated by new security procedures if you fly. We asked the staff in the Insulin Pump Program in the clinic at the Joslin Diabetes Center for some general tips that can help you travel safely and comfortably.

1. Talk with your diabetes medical team if needed beforehand, and carefully follow their general recommendations for traveling with diabetes.

Check out our article on “Diabetes and Travel–10 Tips for a Safe Trip”: http://www.joslin.org/info/diabetes-and-travel-10-tips-for-a-safe-trip.html

Also, the Resources for Parents and Families in the web site section provided by Joslin’s Programs for Children, Adolescents and Young Adults, has information on traveling with a child who has diabetes: http://www.joslin.org/phs/traveling-kids-and-diabetes.html

2. As always with diabetes, bring plenty of supplies, and keep them in carry-on luggage if you fly. Remember to take any extras that you might not ordinarily be using on a daily basis—for instance, if you’ll go swimming and use caps for infusion sets, take those.

3. If you’re flying, stay up-to-date on current security procedures that may affect carry-on diabetes supplies. The American Diabetes Association maintains a set of page on their web site with the current information on air travel and security. They also have a link for reporting problems. Visit http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/know-your-rights/discrimination/public-accommodations/air-travel-and-diabetes/

The new full-body scanners and more intrusive pat-down procedures have raised an ongoing controversy about what approaches to take when going through airport security.

Several of our Joslin pumpers asked Transportation Safety Administration personnel at the airport about this problem and were told that the new scanners will not harm insulin pumps.  However, many pump suppliers say that their products should not go through either the full-body scanners or the normal x-ray machine for carry-on luggage.

Check with your healthcare provider and pump supplier about these issues.  Joslin staff recommends, when in doubt on this issue, err on the side of caution.

If you wear a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system, that may raise additional concerns in going through security. Again, many CGM manufacturers are warning CGM wearers to avoid exposing your CGM equipment to either the full-body scanner or the x-ray for carry-on baggage.

Overall, pump users at Joslin who have gone through the new security procedures report the hassle factor as ranging from negligible to infuriating. Here is the current Transportation Security Administration statement about airline security and diabetes supplies: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1374.shtm#3

4. If you are traveling out of the United States, we advise our patients, whenever possible to obtain back-ups for your pump or other equipment that you can afford to have fail while you’re out of the country.

In addition, some of our pump users pack long-acting insulin to supplement their quick-acting insulin supplies as a backup plan. You should of course create that backup plan with your healthcare team.

5. If you travel to a different time zone, remember to adjust the time on your pump as needed. This is particularly important if you are programming for multiple basal rates; it’s not a good idea for your pump to think it’s in Boston when your body is in Denver.

Have other suggestions to share with pump users? Have you been through the new security procedures at the airport with your pump? Please add your comments below!

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4 Responses to Tips for Traveling with an Insulin Pump

  1. Helen Clark says:

    When I travel by plane I carry a letter from my Dr. explaining my use of a pump, supplies etc. and only would offer it if asked. I do not take my pump off when going through security and on my last trip, both ways, there was no comment about it being on me. On one trip my insulin vial was noticed but no problem with that. The less you offer (to say) to them the better.

  2. Pingback: Insulin Pumps – Get Better Control, Get Your Life Back! | Symptoms Of Diabetes

  3. Pingback: Flying with a pmp

  4. Bill Heile says:

    Traveling out of Cincinnati, OH I have always been stopped going through Security and led to a private room where they test my fingers etc etc… I once was leaving Kiev, Ukraine and there Security asked to see my Passport and they suggested I might tell the Airline to make a note that I would be traveling with Diabetic Pump Supplies as well as long acting Insulin.

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