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Getting Out of Town: Don’t Let Diabetes Stop You

separator Vacations are important. It’s good to get out of town to relax, relieve stress and have fun. Some people with diabetes avoid going on vacation because it seems too complicated to pack the diabetes supplies, monitor blood sugar and pay strict attention to what they eat when they’re supposed to be relaxing. Or they worry about how getting away from daily routines will affect blood sugar levels. But advance planning will help you make a smooth transition to new climates, new time zones, new foods and new activity levels. 

Preparation is everything
Here are the things you should find out in advance:

What the climate is like: Sometimes extreme heat affects your blood sugar level. This varies from person to person. Make sure you know ahead of time what to expect in terms of weather.

What the food is like: Will you be able to stick with the kind of food you eat now, or will you have to adjust to a different way of eating? Talk with your dietitian to figure out how you can make the local foods fit into your eating plan. If there’s a time zone change where you’re going, your dietitian can also help you adjust to that.

Where the healthcare providers are: You can contact the American Diabetes Association to get a listing of healthcare providers in the area where you’ll be traveling. Be sure to do this so you’ll know in advance who to contact if you become sick.

Whether you’ll be exercising more or less than usual: Exercise affects your blood sugar level. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting in a car and not moving around as much as you usually do, for example, your blood sugar may tend to go up. Talk with your diabetes educator or doctor about how much activity you think you’ll be getting and how you should adjust to that.

How to pack
If you’re going by plane: You should only pack supplies in your checked luggage if you also have backup supplies with you. Lost luggage means lost supplies, so you always need extra.

If you’re going by car: Be sure to have insulated bags for insulin and other supplies that need protection from extreme heat and cold.

Speaking of your equipment…
Check your supplies to make sure everything’s in good shape. Make sure to pack extra batteries.

While you’re away…
There are some things you just can’t avoid, so:

  • Check you blood sugar four times a day.
  • Check your feet every day (and be sure to wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes all the time).
  • Carry your snacks with you—raisins, crackers, peanut butter, fresh fruit, granola bars—whatever it is you use when your blood sugar gets low.
  • If you have any doubts about the sanitary conditions of the food, don’t eat it. The last thing you want is a case of diarrhea.

When you’re well prepared, cancelled flights, lost luggage and even illness will not be able to ruin your good time.

L. Holzmeister, P Geil. Diabetes Nutrition A to Z. American Diabetes Association, 2001; The National Federation of the Blind: The Voice of the Diabetic. Spring 1997; H.P. Chase, MD. Understanding Insulin Dependent Diabetes; The Guild of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation at Denver; 9th Edition.
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