Diabetes and Travel: 10 Items You Should Carry

Living with diabetes means you've got to plan for any situation when you're away from home for an extended period, for instance, when you're at work or on an outing.

Here are 10 things you should always take with you when you have diabetes:

1. Diabetes bracelet. Wearing a diabetes bracelet (or medical ID bracelet) could save your life when you travel. If you're in a situation where you can't speak for yourself (for instance being unconscious) this little piece of jewelry will alert people to your condition. There's even one that allows you to carry basic medical information inside it.

2. Medicine. If you take insulin or any oral diabetes medication such as glucagon pills, make sure you pack these first in your outing kit. It's best to travel with insulin in an insulated case to protect it from the heat, which can damage the insulin and make it less effective at controlling your blood glucose level. Pack extra needles and syringes—just in case.

3. Snacks. If you're on insulin or oral diabetes medications you may need to have a snack to keep your blood glucose levels stable. A good rule of thumb is to schedule snacks when the insulin effect is peaking. Good snacks to take with you on your travels include vegetables, a medium fruit, low-fat dairy products, whole grain crackers, toast, cereal, or nuts.

4. Diabetes testing tools. Always take a blood glucose meter (or monitor) with you when you travel. Testing your blood glucose levels is essential to effectively manage your diabetes. Your doctor will help you determine how often you need to do it, but in general, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends testing it before breakfast, lunch, dinner, a big snack, one to two hours after those meals, and before you go to bed, or at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m.

5. Urine testing kit for ketones. Occasionally you may also need to check your urine for ketones (more likely if you have type 1 diabetes) when you travel, so it's worth having a urine testing kit on hand. The ADA recommends testing for ketones in certain situations, for instance when your blood glucose is more than 300 mg/dL, you feel thirsty or have a very dry mouth, your skin is flushed, you're constantly tired, you cannot breathe, or you're vomiting, nauseated, or have abdominal pain.

6. Batteries. A blood glucose meter isn't much use without power; always carry an extra set with you when travelling. When you buy your meter, make sure you know the type of battery it needs. In fact, buy several replacements at the same time when you purchase the meter so you have some extras at your disposal. If you use rechargeable batteries, add the battery charger to your to-carry list.

7. Water. Dehydration can be dangerous to your blood glucose levels and heart function. There's also a catch-22 as high blood sugar levels resulting from dehydrating increase urination, which results in even more fluid loss. Carry a bottle or flask of water with you when travelling, especially in hot weather, when you're on a long drive, or working out. Just be careful not to over-hydrate, which can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, confusion, fatigue, seizures, or a coma.

8, 9, and 10. Toothpaste, brush, and floss. When you have diabetes you're more likely to suffer from gum disease than people who don't have the disease. Gum disease causes pain and disfiguration, but equally important, it lowers your life expectancy. Maintaining close-to-normal blood glucose levels helps to protect your gums, and so will brushing and flossing after each meal. Have a separate oral hygiene kit that you can take with you when you travel.