Travelling with Diabetes: How to Manage When You Travel

November 04, 2020
Diabetes patients are no different from patients with other health conditions in that they should always pay attention to their medical condition when getting ill or not during a trip. These are simple strategies that can help you.

Preventing Diabetes Complications when Becoming Ill

Becoming ill, from generally a minor inconvenience for most people, could become a serious problem in diabetics. For example, flu, diarrhea and even stomach pain may cause acute and severe symptoms. These illnesses often cause fluctuating blood sugar levels even when one does not take much food
  • Do not skip meals or stop taking insulin.
  • Drink plenty of water, such as a half to full glass of water every hour, to prevent dehydration.
  • Self-check blood sugar levels every 4–6 hours or at least 4 times per day.
  • Check your body temperature daily or more frequently.
  • Try having a meal as you normally do or try bland foods such as rice soup or rice congee, some fruit juice. Try not to skip meals.
  • Urgently seek medical attention if you feel nausea, vomiting or stomach pain.
  • Get plenty of rest and avoid exercise.
If blood sugar level falls below 70 mg/dl, one may experience hunger, shaky hands, profuse sweating, cold shivers, rapid and heavy heartbeat, headache, dizziness, faintness, blurred or distorted vision, frustrated easily. If these symptoms happen, follow these recommendations:
  • Consume food that is high in carbohydrates to be rapidly absorbed by the body, such as a half or full glass of a sweetened soft drink or fruit juice, or one tablespoon of cane sugar diluted in 100 ml of water, or 2–3 candies.
  • If a patient loses consciousness, place him/her on one side, remove any foreign objects in the mouth, e.g. denture, food, and then slowly drip a highly concentrated sugary drink or honey into the side of their mouth. While calling 191, prepare to take patient to a hospital by your own car or ambulance (preferred).
  • Use a finger prick test to check blood sugar levels and inform the paramedic/ doctor.
  • If experiencing seizure, confusion, partial or full loss of consciousness, patient should be taken to a hospital immediately.
If blood sugar levels exceed 250 mg/dl, they may feel extremely thirsty; frequent urination, exhaustion; tiredness; progressive weight loss, blurred vision.
If these symptoms happen, follow these recommendations:
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Use a finger prick test to check blood sugar levels and inform the paramedic/ doctor.
  • If experiencing seizure, confusion, partial or full loss of consciousness, patient should be taken to a hospital immediately.

Managing Diabetes at Celebrations and Parties

There is no reason why diabetics cannot enjoy celebrating just like anyone else. However, in doing so, it requires careful planning on when and what they are going to eat there. Follow these simple steps for healthy foods that do not pose a risk to your blood sugar levels:

  • Reduce the amount of fat you consume in prior meals that day. If you have eaten a large lunch, make sure you reduce that day’s evening meal.
  • If you are worried that you may be unable to eat certain foods at the party, consider a meal at home to ensure you have something in your stomach.
  • Avoid sugary foods and beverages, including desserts and fizzy drinks.
  • Ensure that you have your usual amount of carbohydrates.
  • Stay away from fatty foods, including deep-fried or shallow-fried foods, coconut milk and processed items. Find a healthy meat cut that has little or no fat.
  • No alcohol, as this may lead to low blood sugar levels.
  • Have a usual amount of food. If there are many dishes to choose from, take 2–3 mouthfuls of each.
  • Have a glass of water before eating. This will make you feel fuller more quickly.

Enjoy Your Travels, Free from Worry

Travelling may sometimes be unavoidable, whether it be for pleasure or business. Be sure to make a plan that includes the following steps:

  • Avoid travelling if you are unable to manage your health condition effectively or are currently suffering from illnesses that may prohibit traveling.
  • Always carry your diabetes card for emergency situations.
  • If you are planning to travel abroad, please carry a medical letter from your doctor that details your medication list, health disorders and complications associated with your diabetes. You should also gradually adjust the times you take your medication in accordance with the time zone you are visiting.
  • Prepare medications and medical equipment in advance for more days (e.g. for 14 days for 10-day trip), packing them in your hand-carry luggage. Have extra of the same medications in another luggage.
  • Prepare plenty of snacks for the journey, also drinking water, some in a cool box to protect them from contamination.
  • If you are travelling long distances by car, be sure to check about rest stops that have restaurants.
  • Put on comfortable shoes with you on your trip.
By the Diabetes Center at Bumrungrad International Hospital


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