Ah, summer. There's nothing like hitting the open road and taking a good, old-fashioned family car trip. But when you have a child with type 1 diabetes, road trips can be fraught with worry. Will your child be OK for that long on the road, especially if you hit traffic? Never fear. With a little planning, your road trip can be a happy and healthy one for all.
What to Pack
Four to six weeks prior to the trip, discuss your travel plans with your child's healthcare team for pointers on how to manage your child's diabetes while traveling.
Certified Diabetes Educator Marlisa Brown, RD, suggests packing snacks. "Make sandwiches and pack fruit, cheese sticks, water and juice," she suggests. That way, if you're stuck on the road for a long time, a quick meal can be provided.
"We go on four to eight-hour road trips all the time," says Moira McCarthy, whose daughter has type 1 diabetes.
Here are the essentials she never leaves home without: blood glucose meter, extra batteries, glucose tablets, strips, needles, cell phone, prescriptions to use at an out-of-town pharmacy, if needed, and insurance cards.
McCarthy always carries treatment for severe low blood sugar in case her daughter can't ingest anything. And she avoids extremes in temperature, which could damage insulin. "I always carry insulin in a cooler so it doesn't overheat in the car," McCarthy says. She also doesn't let the insulin come into direct contact with ice. In general, it's a good idea to check the temperature and storage information for your insulin and testing supplies to avoid problems.
You might even want to consider storing your supplies in two different bags just in case one is lost or stolen. Better safe than sorry.
Know Where to Stop
When you have a child with type 1 diabetes, a GPS unit or mobile phone with navigation can really come in handy to find nearby restaurants to stop for meals, snacks, or even injections. If you don't have GPS, do your homework beforehand and plan stops along your route.
How to Stay on Track
When McCarthy is on the road, she tests, tests and re-tests. "Remember: Your kid will be less active during the trip, which can affect their (blood sugar) levels." She makes it a practice to check before the trip, halfway through and when she arrives at her destination. Follow your healthcare professional's advice for frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
Make Car Rides Fun
Classic car games such as I Spy or Slug-Bug can help the time pass more quickly. Of course, portable DVDs, books on tape, or gaming devices are also great, too … but they're not as fun (or as bonding) as a family game you can all play together.
With a little prep, your family can have a safe road trip to remember.
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.