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Type 2 diabetes | 3 min. read

Driving and Travelling with diabetes

Driving with diabetes

Few things give people a stronger sense of freedom than getting behind the wheel of a car and taking off. You may need the car to commute to work in the morning, go out for groceries or get out of town for the weekend. Many people also operate a car or truck as part of their work.

Steve Image

What should I do to reduce my risk of hypos while driving?

  • Always check your blood glucose levels before every journey using a finger stick test. Please check with your healthcare professional if you are using any other technology to measure your blood glucose
  • Never drive if your blood glucose level is below 5.0 mmol/L without eating something first
  • Always carry glucose in your car for emergencies
  • If you have a hypo while driving, stop when it is safe to do so, remove your keys from the ignition and remove yourself from the driving seat
  • Do not drive for 45 minutes after having a hypo
  • On long journeys stop regularly, at least every 2 hours, to check your blood glucose levels
Check your blood glucose level

“Check your blood glucose levels before you get into the car. It’s not just something you should do. It’s something that legally you have to do.”

-Steve Mathers

Important information

You must inform your insurance company and the driving licence authority that you have diabetes.

For full driving guidelines, please refer to the Road Safety Authority and Diabetes Ireland.

You should not drive if you are unaware of your hypos (low blood glucose levels). Please discuss this with your diabetes team.

It goes without saying that you need to be completely in control of your body when you drive a car, so hypoglycaemia is something to avoid.

risk of DVT during air travel

“Do as much research as possible in advance. Look at foods, look at medicines, look at sanitary conditions.”

-Steve Mathers

Travelling with diabetes

Travel is, for many people, a significant part of life. Whether you’re simply commuting to work or flying abroad to explore the most remote parts of the world, being able to get from A to B is essential. Travelling with diabetes requires just a little more planning!

Remember to bring:

  • Spare medication and devices
  • Blood glucose testing equipment
  • A cooler bag for spare medication requiring refrigeration
  • Enough food supplies for the journey, if you are taking a long haul flight, e.g. snack bars, fruit
  • Your usual treatment for a hypo. It may be necessary to bring glucose tablets rather than a glucose drink onto an airplane due to restrictions at security
  • Identification which says you have diabetes e.g. a card or bracelet / necklace
  • Travel insurance which covers diabetes
  • A letter from your nurse or doctor verifying that you need to carry medication, needles, blood glucose and ketone testing equipment when travelling abroad
  • A prescription for any medication you are taking in case you need to get more of your medication while you are away. Keep your Long Term Illness number with you for reference
  • A list of your emergency contact numbers at home (nurse, doctor, next of kin etc.) in case they need to be contacted
  • A list of emergency contact numbers at your destination
  • Details of your health insurance. If you are travelling within Europe, bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) (application form available on www.ehic.ie or from your local health centre).
When packing:
  • Carry your medication and supplies in your hand luggage, never put your medication in checked-in luggage
  • Consider splitting your diabetes medication and giving some to a travelling companion, in case your bag gets lost or stolen
Important:
  • Always store your medication as recommended in the package leaflet
  • Discuss with your nurse or doctor any dose changes that may be required if travelling through time zones
  • Discuss with your nurse or doctor your travel plans well in advance.
Prepare a check list

“Prepare a check list for yourself. And bring enough medication to last you for your whole journey – and a little bit extra.”

-Steve Mathers

When you travel, make sure to check your glucose levels regularly with a glucose meter – every 2 or 3 hours. Depending on the trend of your glucose levels, your monitoring may tell you it is time for injecting insulin or having a snack with fast-acting carbohydrates.  Remember in warm countries you  may find you are more prone to getting hypos.

Getting used to checking your glucose levels regularly works sort of like an insurance policy! When you invest in taking full control, the payoff is increased freedom to make (and keep) plans, be spontaneous and have fun. It takes a little time and commitment, but it pays off.

How to deal with culture differences when travelling with diabetes

Being diagnosed with diabetes does not mean you cannot travel the world. If you are visiting a culture where customs and attitudes deviate from your home culture, you may run into surprising and unforeseen reactions to your diabetes. The local population may, for example, think medical injections in public are an unusual and triggering occurrence. What has become routine and second nature to you may be a little shocking or disagreeable to another.

research

“Be as discrete and thoughtful as possible while injecting yourself, especially in a new culture where it can be seen as a little bit shocking and in-your-face.”

-Steve Mathers

Besides being discrete and thoughtful towards your surroundings, do as much research ahead of time as possible:

  • Take the time to find out something about the food culture at your destination. What do the locals like to eat? What might be difficult to find in supermarkets and restaurants? When you know the nutritional facts about the common foods and delicacies, you can immerse yourself more fully in the culture.
  • If the country you’re visiting uses different units of measure (for example, they use grams but you’re used to ounces), make a little overview of the differences and keep it in your pocket at all times. Convert the most common portion-size measures to the local system – for quick reference when you’re deciding what to put on your plate.
  • Food labels vary around the world. Use Google or another search engine to find images of food labels from where you’re going. And practise using them so that you will save time when you encounter them on your journey.
  • Consult an online dictionary and find the local words for glucose, diabetes, blood glucose level, hypo- and hyperglycaemia, insulin and other related terms.
  • Lastly, your research should focus on sanitary conditions and the availability of medicine and health professionals at your destination.

If travelling

Do:

  • Keep your spare insulin in a cooler bag
  • Ensure you carry your insulin in your hand-luggage on a plane
  • Ensure you carry a letter from your doctor or nurse in your hand luggage explaining that you have diabetes and are carrying insulin

Don’t:

  • Allow your insulin to be stored in the hold of a plane as it will freeze and become less effective
  • Leave your insulin in the car

 

Enjoy your trip and stay!

References

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