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By: Nemencio A. Nicodemius Jr., MD

Summer is just around the corner. The temperature has been slowly rising these past days. And when we talk of summer, it means out-of-town trips with friends and family. The favorite destinations are the rural islands and beaches in several provinces in the Philippines. Some, however, prefer international destinations. Such trips pose challenges for the patient with diabetes because of several considerations, aside from being far from centers that can provide emergency care, when needed. But travelling for someone with diabetes can still be enjoyable and worry-free if the necessary preparations are made.

Tip 1: Keep your supplies close at hand. Make sure your diabetes supplies are easily accessible. Put all your supplies in your carry-on bags. If you plan to stuff your carry-on in the bin above your seat, keep a smaller bag beneath the seat in front of you so you have easy access to your glucometer, test strips, syringes, insulin and snacks. After all, meals may be delayed becaue of turbulence.

Tip 2: Try to stick to your routine. When you have diabetes, you need to think ahead and stick to your routine as much as possible. Mealtime and snack time may change and you should ensure that you time your meals with your medications, particularly if you are using insulin. The time may change but the type of meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) will always be the same.

Tip 3: Plan for meals. When booking your flight, many airlines will give you the option of picking a meal suited to your health concerns. Request a diabetes-friendly meal. If eating airline food is not acceptable to you, buy snacks in the airport.

Tip 4: Indulge wisely. Out-of-town trips are always coupled with group meals. These usually include buffet meals. Just as with any other buffet, moderation is the name of the game. Forget about seconds and stick with one plate of healthy food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and beans.

Tip 5: Get documentation. Carry a note stating that you have diabetes, and need to have your medication with you always. Ask your doctor to write a letter or certification regarding your need to carry insulin, syringes, test strips, and other supplies. These may not be routinely asked but it is always better to keep a letter on hand.

Tip 6: Always be prepared to treat low glucose. You need to be prepared for low glucose whenever it strikes, so pack plenty of snacks, candies or chocolates just in case the need arises to take them in between meals.

Tip 7: Investigate the food you eat. If you inject mealtime insulin, try to check the carbohydrate content of the foods you're eating. Test your blood glucose before and after meals to see how new food are affecting your control. It's crucial to keep your glucose numbers in check to avoid problems.

Tip 8: Test your blood sugar. Sightseeing and other physical activity may lower glucose. So, the moment you feel hypoglycemia setting in, test your blood sugar at once. It is very important to test glucose before and after meals.

Tip 9: Adjust insulin. Crossing time zones when travelling is tricky for people with diabetes because it requires adjustments to insulin injections. That's why you should mention your trip to your doctor, who can help you plan for the changes you'll need to make to your insulin regimen. You might need to dose more or less insulin depending on your itinerary.

Tip 10: Tell others that you have diabetes. While it may not always be comfortable, it is important to tell the people with whom you are traveling that you have diabetes. Let them know what you must do to stay healthy and active on your journey, and what they should do in case there is an emergency.

Travel can have all sorts of effects on diabetes management. Being ready and planning are, indeed, necessary for an enjoyable trip whether you have diabetes or not. But the benefits for those with diabetes are much greater and can be life-saving.