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Can a I fly an airplane with a type 1 diabetic child? Yes, you can!
Flying with a Type 1 Diabetic child can be a scary thought mama.
Two of the most concerning questions parents have are:
- if you can take your child’s diabetic supplies on an airplane
- how will the altitude affect my child’s blood sugar levels?
Ever since my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, we have only flown on very few occasions.
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.
Tips for Flying with a Type 1 Diabetic Child
1. 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 child’s insulin pump, glucose meter and/or other diabetes supplies for better diabetes management.
2. Getting Ready to Travel
I make sure to 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
3. 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 your child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, talk to your child’s insulin pump company to get the details down on what to do, in case of an insulin pump failure.
4. 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.
A great place to quickly get extra Diabetic supplies before your trip is at the Diabetic Warehouse. At Diabetic Warehouse, they are committed to supporting you with free and fast 3-2 day shipping as long as your order is placed before 3 pm EST. I also love that they have a customer service number where you can speak to a real live human being.
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
- health insurance card
- your child’s Endocrinologist’s information
- extra batteries for your child’s insulin pump and/or glucose meter
- information of another family member who knows your child’s condition
- any oral medication your child 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
5. 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.
6. 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 child’s insulin needles/syringes, insulin vials, and insulin pens onto the plane on your carry-on bag.
I was able to get Amanda an insulin traveling cooler like the one below
7. Inform the TSA Office of Your Medical Devices
You need to disclose to the TSA officer of your child’s medical condition and the medical devices that he/she has on their body. Inform the TSA where on his/her body he/she has the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM/Dexcom/Libre) placed. It can help speed up the process.
Your child cannot be required to take off the insulin pump and CGM. You can ask your child’s Endocrinologist to provide a medical letter indicating that your child has 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. Your child needs to go through the X-ray machine. He/she 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.
8. How to Keep Insulin Cool When Flying
I just LOVE this Frio Insulin Cooling Wallet to store insulin while traveling.
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.
Every time I go to Puerto Rico, this is something that is a MUST in our bags, in order to keep Amanda’s insulin cool in hot weather.
And yes, I have always been able to pass this through TSA security.
Blood Sugar Levels While Flying
It will depend on the person. No two Type 1 Diabetics are the same. Some parents of diabetic kids indicate that that their glucose levels are affected while flying. Other parents report they do not notice any changes.
Does Altitude Affect Blood Sugar?
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 say this because as soon as we land, jer glucose levels decrease quickly and more easily.
So, during the flight, I need to correct her high blood sugars and increase her temp basal rate on her insulin pump.
I do an increase of 50-100%. If we are doing a 3 hr flight, then her temp basal rate increase is for 2 hrs.
Pro Tip: Just in case I overdose on her insulin, 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 child’s 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:
You can read more at the American Diabetes Association if you have any issues while traveling.