How to Plan for Travel with Kids With Diabetes

Traveling with kids with diabetes requires a lot of planning.

With school vacation approaching, this week the Joslin Blog is dedicated to safe travels with diabetes.

Traveling with children always requires a great deal of planning and there are usually a few bumps along the way.  For parents with children who have diabetes there are more situations and common problems that may come along with traveling.  However, these issues can be avoided or easily handled by planning ahead and packing the right tools.

Dr. Alyne Ricker, M.D., Pediatric Endocrinologist in the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Program for twenty years, suggests that you must first think about where and how you will be traveling.  Will it be by car? Long hours sitting often result in high blood sugar. Plan some breaks that include some exercise. By Plane? Plan for airport security – you may need a doctor’s letter in order to bring snacks through. Once at your destination, will you be spending a lot of time in the water? Or enjoying active sports or touring a new city? While all of these factors will play a small role in determining which extra things should be brought, it is imperative to pack extra supplies.

“In general, the first things that we think about are supplies. We recommend that you bring twice as many supplies as you expect to use” Dr. Ricker says.

If your child is a pump user, in addition to extra pump site changes, insulin and cartages, it is essential to plan for any pump malfunctions that may occur.  Consider contacting your pump company and renting a backup pump.  This can be especially useful if the trip you are planning is for an extended period of time or out of the country.  For insulin pump users, bring long acting insulin in case of pump failure and speak with your doctor or educator about doses.

“Likewise, if you’re pumping and you’re going to spend a lot of time in the water, you might want to consider using injected long acting insulin for your basal insulin and only hooking up to the pump for boluses.” said Dr. Ricker.  This can mean more fun, uninterrupted by frequent blood sugar checks.

It is also vital to keep your child’s supplies in a safe, secure location and his or her insulin in adequate temperature.  Insulin is safest between 40 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We generally would suggest that you carry most or all of your supplies in a pack with you, on the plane rather than putting them in checked baggage.” Dr. Ricker said.

Doing so will allow you to have your child’s supplies even if your checked bag does not make it onto the plane or is stolen.

Available food options are also something else significant to think about when traveling with a child who has diabetes. Dr. Ricker suggests to “recognize that in some places access might not be the same as in the United States.  Bring along snacks that your child might eat”.

While trying new foods can be adventurous and exciting for your child, it can also cause difficulty in guessing the carb counts of exotic dishes.  Dr. Ricker suggests that using a calorie counter smartphone app can help with this, especially while traveling overseas where food labeling is not usual.

As a tourist in other places, it can be assumed that you will be doing plenty of walking.  Plan for this by being more conservative with how much insulin you give during times of activity, which can prevent low blood sugars later on.  Especially in places far from home, it is more beneficial to be safe, than to be sorry.

When traveling with a child who has diabetes, pre-planning is essential.  Before packing for your trip, create a checklist of everything you may need.  At your next visit at Joslin ask your healthcare-provider for Joslin’s own General Check List of Diabetes Supplies.  The list includes everything from monitoring supplies to low blood glucose treatment supplies, all of which may get you out of an unplanned situation on your next vacation.

Click here to learn more about the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Programs at Joslin.

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