Can a Type 1 Diabetic Travel? Yes, they can!
Traveling with a Type 1 Diabetic child on an airplane can be a scary thought. Two of the most concerning questions people have are if you can take diabetic supplies on an airplane, and how will the altitude affect their blood sugar levels.
Ever since my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we have only flown on very few occasions.
The first time we traveled, everything went over smoothly and loved the experience, that we decided it was not so bad after all.
However, the second time around, we were not so lucky. There were numerous issues and problems that made me desire not to travel anymore.
Everything went wrong on this last trip. The airport security/TSA line was horribly long, for a 6 am flight; we were SUPER late for our flight (I know, our fault, but we almost lost our plane!), the TSA person was not well trained on how to check a bag of a person with diabetes.
All I can say, thankfully we did not lose our plane. We had to go all “Home Alone” (like the movie), running like crazy people in order to catch our flight to Puerto Rico.
Traveling with Type 1 Diabetes on air travel, quoting Forest Gump, can be “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”. Therefore, it is better to get prepared in order for you to have a smooth TSA experience and you can start enjoying your vacation before hitting the airport.
You can read more at the American Diabetes Association if you have any issues while traveling.
What To Do Before Arriving At Your Destination
When picking your destination, find out the nearest hospitals and pharmacies of the place you are traveling to. You never know in case of an emergency if you need to go to the hospital, get extra supplies or get another type of medication from the pharmacy.
If traveling to a different time zone, find out how long in advance this is, so when you arrive at your destination, you can adjust the clock on your insulin pump, glucose meter and/or other diabetes supplies.
Getting Ready to Travel
I usually have on my iPhone my daughter’s emergency contact information:
- Pediatrician’s number
- Endocrinologist’s contact information
- medical condition
- the medication she is taking
- other family members’ information who know about her medical condition
Here is a quick video on how to set your medical ID on your iPhone
Other Important Tasks to do Before You Travel
Consider having travel insurance, just in case of a medical emergency, a trip cancellation, trip interruption, delays, medical evacuation, and lost, damaged, or stolen luggage.
If this is your first time traveling after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, talk to your insulin pump company to get the details down on what to do, in case of an insulin pump failure.
Flying with Diabetes Supplies
As a precaution and in case of an emergency, pack twice as much of the medical supplies. It’s always best to be over-prepared than underprepared.
On your carry-on bag and on your clothes luggage pack the following:
- pump infusion sites
- insulin cartridges
- test strips
- ketones testing strips (I prefer the blood test strips vs the urine test strips)
- fast-acting insulin
- long-acting insulin (in case of pump failure)
- syringes (in case of pump failure)
- CGM sensors
- our health insurance card
- you Endocrinologist’s information
- extra batteries for your insulin pump and/or glucose meter
- information of another family member who knows your condition
- any oral medication you might be taking
- a snacks
- juice boxes
- peanut butter snacks
- any form of sugar such as: hard candy, glucose tablets, fast-acting glucose liquid; to treat low blood glucose levels
Get to the Airport Early
If your flight is at 3 pm, get there by noon. This is just to ensure that everything runs smoothly and if there are any surprises on your checking in, you have enough time to resolve the issue.
TSA and Diabetes
Find out beforehand about TSA’s guideline for traveling with Type 1 Diabetes.
You can get a TSA diabetes notification card or a letter from your Endocrinologist indicating that you or your loved one has Type 1 Diabetes and the need for your supplies in order to check blood sugar levels.
The TSA person will ask you if you have anything inside that will harm them. Be truthful, and tell him/her about the diabetic supplies you have on your handbag.
You should be able to pass through security your insulin needles/syringes, insulin vials, and insulin pens onto the plane on your carry-on bag.
I was able to get Amanda this cute little Unicorn Diabetes Case from Myabetic
Inform the TSA office of your Medical Devices
You need to disclose to the TSA officer of your medical condition and the medical devices that you have on your body. Inform the TSA where on your body you have your insulin pump and your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) placed. It can help speed up the process.
You cannot be required to take off your insulin pump and CGM. You can ask your Endocrinologist to provide a medical letter indicating that you have Diabetes, just in case.
It is not recommended for people with diabetes who use a CGM and/or an insulin pump to go through the body scanner. You need to request to go through the X-ray machine. You can be subjected to additional screening, like a pat-down and hand screening with a detector.
For my daughter, since she is a child by the time that I am writing this post, they have not done the pat-down. TSA does not do pat-downs for children 12 years old and under. They just make us go through the metal detector.
Amanda also wears her insulin pump and her Dexcom G6 and is able to go through the security airport without any issues.
How to Keep Insulin Cold When Flying
I LOVE this Frio Insulin Cooling Wallet. It comes in different colors and sizes. You just need to place the gel-like bag in water to activate it, and it keeps the insulin cool.
And yes, I was able to pass this through TSA security.
Does altitude affect blood sugar?
It will depend on the person. No two Type 1 Diabetics are the same.
In our case, Amanda gets hyperglycemia (high blood sugars). Maybe it’s because of the excitement of getting on the plane, and the upcoming adventure, she tends to run high when we are flying due to her adrenaline.
I correct her high blood sugars and increase her temp basal rate on her insulin pump.
Just in case I overdose on her insulin regimen, I keep low blood sugar snacks handy, in case she goes low.
Does altitude affect insulin pumps?
It might affect insulin delivery, in the way that it can over-deliver a small additional amount of insulin.
However, in our experience, this has not occurred. We have not had any issues with Amanda’s insulin pump while up in the air.
Some people complain that their tubing gets air bubbles; we have not experienced this.
Arriving At Your Destination
As soon as you arrive at your destination, place your extra insulin (fast-acting and long-acting) in the refrigerator, especially if you are in a warm climate.
After you get settled in your destination, have FUN!
If you have additional questions regarding your medications, contact TSA Passenger support, 72 hours prior to your flight.
For additional information please head over to the following sites:
** Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nurse or any professional in the medical field. You should always consult with your doctor about any symptoms that you, any family member or your child may be feeling. The experiences detailed here in this blog, are of my own.