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