Traveling with a pump
Your pump can make good blood glucose control easier when you travel. You can adjust boluses for meals that come at odd hours, for ones that are bigger or smaller than usual, or for meals that you just don’t want to eat more quickly.
You can also adjust to changes in your normal activity level, like sleeping in later.
How you prepare for your travel and what you need to take is dependent on where you’re going and for how long. What is appropriate for a short domestic flight and holiday within the UK will be different for a long flight over different time zones to an exotic overseas destination. Go wherever your heart leads you; just remember to take your pump too!
Supplies needed for safety while travelling
When traveling, you need to consider taking the following supplies:
- Extra pump batteries
- Insulin (and appropriate storage container)
- Pump supplies
- Insulin pen or syringes
- Ketone strips
- Glucagon emergency kit
- Blood sugar testing equipment
- Carbohydrate for treating hypos and extra food such as nutrition bars which are easy to carry
Other things to consider:
- Key contact details of your doctor and Diabetes Healthcare Team and also diabetes services at your destination
- Wear or carry medical ID indicating that you have diabetes and that you are on an insulin pump
- It’s also a good idea to take along medication for diarrhoea and nausea
- Your pump manual and a list of all your pump settings
- If you are travelling overseas you may want to have written useful phrases in the language of your destination eg. “I have diabetes, please give me some sugar or something to eat”.
- Check with your country of destination about taking your supplies into the country.
Always carry medications, snacks, pump supplies and the letter from your doctor in your carry on luggage when you fly. This is especially important because your luggage may be lost, or you may have delays for extended periods of time due to bad weather or mechanical problems. Insulin left in checked luggage may be exposed to extreme (often freezing) temperatures.
A good rule of thumb is to pack double the amount of supplies that you think you would normally need, just in case you have any problems.
Pump supplies may be more expensive when buying in another country, or your particular supplies may not be available in every country, so be sure to check with us first by calling the Medtronic Diabetes Customer Service so that you don’t get any unexpected surprises.
Time zones and multiple basal rates
There is no 'cookbook' approach when it comes to adjusting basal rates for crossing time zones. When planning a trip, consult with your Diabetes Healthcare Team to discuss the trip itinerary and any adjustments that may be needed for travel.
Don’t forget to always carry a list of your basal rates and other pump settings with you.
Set the pump to the new destination at any time during the flight – most people change their pump when they arrive at their destination. It is very important however, that you do change the time to the correct time of your destination as your basal rate settings may be quite different overnight to during the day. If you don’t change the time you may be get too much insulin when you are sightseeing and then not enough during the night. This can be quite dangerous.
Don’t forget to change your time back when you get back home to your original time zone.
It is a good idea to get up and walk during long flights and drink plenty of water – this helps prevent blood-clotting problems that people with or without diabetes may experience.
Test your blood glucose more often. Blood glucose levels can go too high or low due to stress or changes in activity or eating.
Traveling in the USA
- In the US, doctors’ letters are no longer sufficient proof of medical necessity when you are carrying syringes. In order to board an airplane with syringes and other insulin delivery devices, you must produce an insulin vial with a professional, pharmaceutical, pre-printed label that clearly identifies the medication. No exceptions will be made. If the prescription is located on the outside of the insulin box then you should carry that as well.
- Check-in time in the US even for domestic flights is 2 hours to enable you to clear all the security checks
- In the US you must notify security screeners that you have diabetes and that you are wearing a pump and are carrying supplies with you
Safety issues when flying
You can use your pump whilst flying on commercial aircraft. It is important however, not to use your pump remote control during a flight as it may interfere with the planes navigation equipment