Cedars Sinai Kids Talk - Type 1 Diabetes and Summertime
How to Travel with a Diabetic Kid
If you've never traveled with your diabetic kiddo, you may be a little worried about it. Don't worry, though, with a little planning, you can keep your child safe and healthy. Good preparation will make your trip safer and more enjoyable for both you and your child, such as packing a bag with the necessary supplies and getting a note from your child's doctor. Whether traveling across the state to visit family or flying off on an exotic vacation, plan your meals out and pay close attention to your child's schedule. Also, check your child's blood sugar often to keep your child healthy and well while you're gone.
Planning for Your Trip
Pack a carry-on bag specifically for your child's supplies.In the bag, pack the glucose meter with extra batteries, testing strips, and capped lancets. Include enough insulin, glucagon, and other medications for the whole trip by packing double what you expect your child to use. Don't forget to throw in some carbohydrate-heavy snacks for low blood sugar.
- Some good snack choices are graham crackers, pretzels, and baked chips.
- Include fast-acting carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets, which raise your child's blood sugar quickly.
- Carry extra syringes if your child receives insulin by syringe instead of through an insulin pen. If your child is on a pump, carry a spare infusion set.
Keep all medications, syringes, and lancets in their original packaging.Carry medications in their pharmacy bottles. Pack all medications and syringes in a clear bag to make them easy to see, and carry a prescription with you to get through airport security more quickly.
- While a prescription isn't necessary, it can make things go faster.
Discuss time zone changes with your child's doctor.If you are traveling across several time zones, that can wreak havoc with your child's medications. Talk to your child's doctor to put a plan of action in place to keep your child on a regular schedule.
Ask for a letter from you child's doctor.Before you travel, arrange for your child's healthcare provider to write a letter which briefly describes your child's diabetes treatment. This letter should include information about your child's insulin type and syringe size, any other medications they need, and any allergies or other important medical conditions.
- This letter may come in handy when going through airport security or if you need to seek medical assistance for your child over the course of your trip.
Plan ahead for changes in temperature.Carry the bag on the plane with you rather than checking it in, as the insulin could freeze in the luggage hold. Plus, if you're traveling to a warm area, pack a cool pack with your child's insulin. If you're too hot, the insulin is likely too hot.
- Similarly, if you're going to an area with freezing temperatures, pack the insulin in a insulated container to prevent it from freezing.
Teach your child to say “I have diabetes.” If your child is old enough, teach them this phrase in English and any native languages at your travel destination. That way, if they get lost while abroad, your child can communicate their need to someone else.
- Other useful phrases to learn include “I need juice or sugar, please,” and “I need a doctor."
- If your child is too young to learn how to say the phrase, write the phrase on piece of paper. Instruct your child to keep it in their pocket at all times so they can show it to someone if necessary.
- If possible, your child should wear a medical alert ID and carry their provider’s emergency contact information in case you get separated.
Check the local area for nearby hospitals and pharmacies.Search online to identify the nearby medical facilities you can use while on vacation. That way, if your child does have a problem, you know exactly where you can go.
Obtain medical travel insurance for foreign countries.Having medical travel insurance for your child will be useful if they need hospitalization or equipment replaced while you're on vacation. Receiving medical treatment in a foreign country can be expensive, so it's best to be prepared.
- If you don't want to purchase medical travel insurance, at least call your insurance company to see what they cover when you're traveling.
Taking Precautions while Traveling
Know your child's rights before flying.You have a right to carry everything your child needs for their diabetes. That includes insulin, insulin pumps, medications, syringes, lancets, and even liquid carbohydrates in greater quantities than 3.4 fluid ounces (100 mL).
- Your items will need to go through the x-ray machine, which will not harm the insulin or the glucose meters.
- Getting through security will go much quicker if you include the prescription labels with medications and have them ready in a clear bag.
Bring a TSA Disability Notification Card.While this card is not required, it will help the process go more smoothly. Basically, you print the card off and write on it that your child has diabetes. Then you hand it to the TSA agents.
- Print one out from .
Check ahead of time for in-flight meals and snacks.Many domestic flights no longer offer in-flight meals. If one is available, ask for a diabetic option for your child. If they're not available, bring a healthy meal with you for your child to eat if the flight is long enough that they will need to eat.
- Whether you bring a meal or not, be sure to have snacks and/or fast-acting glucose, such as glucose tablets, on hand in case your child's blood sugar dips.
- If you're driving or taking the bus, check the route ahead of time for food stops.
Request an aisle seat for your child.If you expect that your child will need to go to the restroom to check their blood sugar during the flight, ask for an aisle seat. This will allow them to quickly get to the restroom without disturbing other passengers.
- On long flights, check your child's blood sugar every 2 hours.
Check your child's blood sugar right after landing.New schedules and jet lag can mess with your child's blood sugar levels, as well as make it difficult for them to determine when their sugars are low. Take time after you get off the flight to check their blood sugar levels and adjust as needed.
Take exercise breaks to control your child's blood sugar.Sitting in the car or plane too long can lead to high blood sugar levels. If you're in the car, try to stop every 1-2 hours, and add some stops that allow your kid to run around. For instance, try stopping somewhere with a playground when you're in the car. On a plane, have your child at least get up and go to the bathroom every hour. Between flights, give them a chance to stretch their legs.
Helping Your Child Stay on Track
Stick to the meal and medication plan you made with your child's doctor.The plan you made should help your child adjust to the new time zone. However, you must stick to it carefully for it to work, so make sure you are following it to the letter.
- Also, be sure to check your child's blood sugar often. Ask your child's doctor how often you'll need to do this for your child, as it can vary widely.
- If your child uses an insulin pump, you may need to adjust the clock on their pump to the usual mealtime when they eat, and to their usual bedtime if he or she goes to sleep. Once you arrive at your destination, you can set it to the local time.
Anticipate what food will be available to you throughout the day.Before you go anywhere, think about what type of food will be available in the places you'll be visiting. Try to plan out meals ahead of time, so you can stay on an eating schedule.
- Excitement, heat, and being off-schedule can lead to low blood sugar, so be prepared with plenty of water and snacks.
- Make reservations when they're available to avoid long wait times.
Use a calorie-counter app on your smartphone to gauge carbohydrates.If your child is eating dishes you're unfamiliar with, you're going to have a difficult time figuring out how many calories and carbohydrates they ate. A smart phone app that counts calories can help you figure that out.
- These apps can also help you track carbohydrates, so you don't forget what your child ate earlier in the day.
Pack foods you know your child will eat.At your travel destination, you may have trouble finding foods they like. Make sure to carry things you know they will eat so that they won't suffer from low blood sugar.
- Always carry a snack with you in case your child can't find something to eat.
Adjust the amount of insulin you give when your child has been active.If they have been running around more than normal, you likely won't need to give as much insulin as you normally do. Be sure to check their blood sugar and change the amount you give them if you need to.
Call ahead to see if places make special allowances for snacks.Amusement parks, for instance, often do not allow outside foods, but they may make allowances for a child with diabetes. You may also be able to get a "special assistance pass" to avoid the long lines.
- Prepare for visits to special events, secured sites, concerts, and amusement parks. Check about policies for visitors who are diabetic.
- Call ahead to inquire about security that prohibits backpacks, storage cases, or food and drink and be prepared with a letter from the medical provider that documents your child's diabetes.
- Don’t forget to do the routine travel preparations, including preventive treatments required for travel to certain countries. You can obtain information about vaccine and medication requirements for specific destinations at .
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