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July 29, 2009 > Traveling With Diabetes Takes Planning

Traveling With Diabetes Takes Planning

Washington Hospital Seminar Can Help You Prepare for Your Next Trip

Diabetes doesn't have to stop you from globetrotting, but traveling with the disease does require planning. From monitoring glucose to storing insulin, there are issues that must be addressed before you leave home.

"Traveling can present challenges for people with diabetes," said Sandy Mertesdorf, RN, CDE. "You have to be prepared, which requires planning well in advance so you can be ready for any situation."

She will present an upcoming seminar titled, "Preparing to Travel with Diabetes," part of Washington Hospital's free Diabetes Matters education series. The seminar is scheduled for Thursday, August 6, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register, call (510) 745-6556.

Mertesdorf will provide participants with a comprehensive checklist they can use to prepare for their next trip. She will discuss some of the issues people with diabetes need to consider and offer tips for getting ready.

"The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor," she said. "Your doctor can work with you on a plan to keep your diabetes under control while you are traveling. You should also get a letter from your doctor that explains what supplies and medications you need to take, and carry a list of your medications with you."

Mertesdorf recommends traveling with more supplies and medications than you would usually need, especially if you are leaving the country. Getting prescriptions filled outside the United States can sometimes be difficult, and some medications may not be available in certain countries.

"Diabetes medications and how to handle them takes the most planning," she said. "When you travel with insulin, you have to think about where you will store your supplies. Insulin stored in very hot or very cold temperatures can lose its strength."

Whenever traveling, Mertesdorf said you should carry your medications with you. Medications stored in the cargo hold of a plane or a car trunk can get damaged. Besides, you could get separated from your luggage.

She recommended calling the airline or cruise ship company before traveling and advising them that you have diabetes. That way, they can accommodate your dietary needs and will be alerted to your condition.

Crossing Time Zones

"It can be a challenge dealing with time changes," Mertesdorf said. "The bigger the time change, the more planning is required. I'll share a formula that can help with adjusting medications when crossing time zones."

It can also be difficult sticking to meal plans. She suggested always having snacks on hand in case you don't have access to the appropriate food when you need to eat.

"It's important to monitor glucose levels frequently while traveling," Mertesdorf said. "Have a game plan for what you will do if your blood sugar is too high or too low."

She said you should carry your health insurance information with you in case you need medical care while traveling. "Find out what kind of medical services are available where you are going in case you need them," she added.

Mertesdorf will also talk about dealing with stress, which can affect glucose levels. "Even fun traveling can be stressful, and stress hormones can raise blood sugar," she said.

Proper planning can help reduce the stress. "The better prepared you are, the more comfortable you will be," Mertesdorf said. "Start planning early. You will have a much more secure feeling if you give yourself time to prepare for every situation beforehand. That way you can concentrate on enjoying your trip."

Attend the seminar on August 6 to learn more about preparing for your next trip. To find out about other diabetes education classes, call (510) 745-6556.

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