Insulin Pump Travel Advice
See your doctor 4-6 weeks before departure. Your doctor will tell you how to manage your pump while travelling, provide any necessary information on immunizations and provide a letter for airport security. Do not travel if your control is poor or you are having severe problems e.g. recurrent severe hypos.
Ensure you have travel insurance that will cover expenses if you get sick overseas and will cover the cost of the pump is it is lost or stolen.
“Diabetic meals” on air planes are usually very low in carbohydrates and designed more for patients with type 2 diabetes, rather than those with type 1 diabetes. You must carry two sets of supplies that are enough for he entire trip, keep 1 in your carry on and the other set in your baggages.
Each set should include:
- A blood glucose monitor, batteries, lancets and ketone test equipment.
- Enough insulin for the pump (leave in packaging).
- Pump cartridges, lines, sites and batteries.
- A hypo kit including carbohydrates such as glucose tables (you cannot take liquids on planes) and glucagon.
- A plan in case the pump fails including insulin doses, long acting insulin and syringes or pens and needles. Leave all insulin in packaging.
- A sick day management plan
- A medic alert
- A first aid kit including analgesic, bandages, tape and any other medication recommended by your doctor.
- Contact details for your doctor and insulin pump company.
On the day of the flight put a new battery in your pump, changed the cartridge, line and site and only put the minimum amount of insulin you require for the trip in the cartridge.
During your flight, changes in pressure will affect your pump, to stop these effects the cartridge should only contain insulin to cover the travel period and the pump must be disconnected prior to take off, once at cruising altitude check the cartridge for air bubbles, expel any found and then reconnect the pump, once landed disconnect the pump, prime the line and then reconnect the pump.
During flight emergencies, disconnect the insulin pump. When the emergency is over, inspect the cartridge for air bubbles before reconnecting.
When crossing time zones check your BGL frequently. The airlines try to structure meal time and lights out so you are synchronised to the time of your destination, try and follow what they do. Make changes to the clock in your pump to match what you are doing at the time, for example, if you are about to have dinner then change the time in the pump to the time when you would normally have dinner, if you are about to go to sleep then change the time in the pump to the time you would normally go to bed. When you arrive at the destination change the pump time to local time.
If you are going to a hot country then keep the insulin cool in either a refrigerator or a thermal insulate bag or container.
When you arrive at your destination try to accustom yourself to the local time zone quickly. Walk around outside as much as possible, drink lots of water, eat at the same times you would normally, go to bed at the time you normally would and if you wake through the night then stay in bed (try to relax or meditate).
Getting into a normal daily pattern is the best way to beat jet lag.