Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year. When you're hitting the road with a child with type 1 diabetes, you have to be prepared for anything.
Whether you're traveling by plane, train, or automobile, always bring along twice as many supplies as you think you'll need, says juvenile diabetes expert Jennifer Miller, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Don't forget to pack your blood glucose meter, batteries, glucose tablets, ketone test strips, needles, insulin and a treatment for severe low blood sugar. And make sure these supplies are readily available at all times. If you're flying, they should be in your carry-on (never in checked luggage), and if you are driving, place them in the front seat. Be sure you store your insulin according to the instructions provided with it.
Consult with your diabetes team in advance of your trip to go over travel plans. Before heading to the airport, get a letter from him or her explaining that your child has type 1 diabetes and needs to keep diabetes supplies with him or her at all times. When you show this letter to TSA officials, you should have no problem getting through security with your supplies—but they WILL check your bags, so allow yourself plenty of extra time. Also ask your healthcare provider for tips on injecting insulin on a plane. Be sure to bring along prescriptions and insurance cards just in case any medication gets lost or stolen, and have your child wear a medical ID bracelet at all times in case of emergency.
Carrying healthy snacks during your travels is also essential, says certified diabetes educator Marlisa Brown, R.D. "You have to plan for traffic and delays. Always pack snacks, like fresh or dried fruit, crackers, cheese, sandwiches, nut or fruit bars, and energy bars," she says. Bring plenty of water along too, so your child won't get dehydrated.
During your travels, test your child's blood sugar levels frequently, advises Miller. He or she may be less active during long trips, and this can affect glucose levels, so test more often than you would at home to be on the safe side. If you travel across multiple time zones, the timing and amount of insulin may need to be adjusted. Consult your healthcare team before making any changes to your child's care plan.
It may seem like a lot to manage, but don't let diabetes discourage you from going away for the holidays. "Many of my patients travel a lot, and their families have it down pat," says Miller. As long as you're prepared, you can enjoy visiting friends and relatives far and wide.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
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