Insulin Pump Travel Tips

Before you leave:

Make sure to have your diabetes identification card and a list of all medications and when to take them as well as the name of someone to call in case of emergency. Short term health insurance for the period of travel is a good investment. You will feel and function much better on your trip if you have good glucose control. When you are traveling, this may take some extra effort but the reward is in having a great trip.

Documentation & Airport Security:

Have your diabetes identification card and a list of all medications. It is preferable to have your medications & insulin in their original packaging with the pharmacy label. Pack your glucose meter and medications in your carry on bags (You don’t want to be stuck if the airline loses your suitcase). The insulin pump may set off the metal detector in airport security, generally security staff are well trained to recognize an insulin pump although they occasionally request a document such as your ID card to show you are a diabetic.

Supplies to bring:

Make sure to bring your insulin. Refrigeration is generally not needed, all insulins used in the pump are stable for at least 30 days without refrigeration although if you are able to refrigerate your back up supply of insulin at your destination it is preferable. You should have batteries for the pump as well as reservoirs, tubing sets, sites, inserters, tape, swabs, glucose testing supplies etc. They may be difficult to obtain or require a prescription in your destination country. Remember to bring extra supplies and sites in case you have a site problem or a blockage. The lower cabin pressure on an airplane occasionally results in bubbles being formed in the reservoir or tubing, you should be prepared to re-prime the pump if this happens. Always bring some insulin syringes, if your pump fails while you are away you need to have a back up for giving your insulin. Since you are only using a short acting insulin analogue in your pump, you will need to take basal insulin every 2 hours or so while awake and you should never go more than 4 hours without taking insulin. You can calculate your total daily basal insulin , divide by 12 and this is the amount of basal insulin you will need every 2 hours, it can be added to the bolus doses at mealtimes. Bolus doses are calculated as you normally do.

Traveling across Time Zones:

When you arrive at your destination, reset the time on the pump to local time. Basal rates will then conform to the local time. The stress and the different activity levels may result in higher or lower glucose levels than normal but these can be corrected using bolus adjustments.

Bolus Insulin:

Different foods and activity levels may make glucose levels difficult to control. Always check glucose before a meal, do your best to estimate the carb count and don’t forget the high glucose adjustment. Recheck glucose 2 hours or so after the meal and do an adjustment bolus as needed.

In Case of Emergency:

If you have to go to the Emergency room, in addition to the Diabetic Identification Card and medication list it is a good idea to have an instruction sheet for Emergency staff on the functioning of the pump. Remember that if your pump fails or is disconnected you will need basal insulin. In Canada we measure glucose in mmol/L, in some other countries glucose is measured in mg/dL, to convert from mmol/L to mg/dL, multiply the glucose level on your meter by 18. To convert from mg/dL to mmol/L divide by 18.