Q: Being a diabetic I am very much scared to travel to overseas fearing any diabetic complications occurring there.
A: If diabetes is well controlled at home, travel should not be burdensome. However, if a diabetic is having trouble with control under ideal circumstances, uncertainties of travel can cause further difficulties. First, make certain that your health insurance policy applies in the areas you are travelling. Diabetics must watch their feet scrupulously; tuck in an extra pair of comfortable walking shoes. Do not try to break in new shoes on the trip. Take old ones that you know are comfortable.
It is useful to carry a note from your physician stating your current medical conditions and listing medications by their generic rather than brand names. Although diabetics generally have no particular problems at customs, showing an identification card or a physician’s statement can be useful in placating a customs official who is concerned about the syringes, needles or insulin pens you are carrying. Carry necessary medications. Aspirin or paracetamol, a foot powder and Lomotil for diarrhoea are basics. Make certain that you carry your medications (especially diabetes-related ones) in your carry-on-flight bag. Do not worry about refrigeration for insulin. Be sure to take enough medication for the entire trip, and even some extra.
When travelling, if the diabetes is very unstable, the steward or stewardess should be reminded of your condition early enough so that if you require something sweet in a hurry or if there is a delay in serving, you can have some priority. Nevertheless, carrying a "just in case" snack is a good idea. Cheese crackers, small bags of nuts and small cans of juice will serve the purpose.
Carry a glucometer with enough strips. A general rule would be to lower the insulin dose on the day of departure when travelling east, thus anticipating a shortened day.
The chances of low blood glucose reactions occurring while flying, although the primary concern, are actually minimal because there is little activity and, frequently, large amounts of food are served. Airsickness is rare, but medication, if needed, will be useful only if taken before required.
It is advisable on longer flights to take occasional walks up and down the aisle to avoid possible blood clotting in the legs.
On arrival, avoid overeating, over drinking, and overexerting, especially on the first day.
If you need to buy insulin abroad, you can show your insulin bottle or the insulin pen to the pharmacist, who generally can find the equivalent.
It is wise to carry either an extra pair of eyeglasses. Another important thing to remember when travelling is care of the feet – proper bathing, frequent changing of socks, and treatment of athlete’s foot and minor infections. This care, along with plenty of rest, can do a lot to prevent foot complications and make your trip much more enjoyable.
Dr Asok Cheriyan is a specialist diabetologist at Al Waha Clinic Diabetes Centre, Dubai. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.