Seniors Traveling With Diabetes

Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD

If you are a senior and have diabetes, there is no reason you can’t travel the world and fully enjoy your golden years. The key to traveling well is to go while you are healthy and to stay in good health during your entire trip. Plan a trip that fits your personal needs and abilities. If you wish to travel to a place that requires you to do more than you usually do or may not have many medical services, first meet with your health care provider for a complete checkup and discuss what you need for the trip. Try to do this at least a month before you leave. You and your health care provider can discuss any concerns about your ability to travel, what plans you need to make to handle any medical problems while you are away, and if you need any special shots. You also may receive a note for continued care at your vacation site.

The climate at your destination is important. Avoid vacation areas that are too hot or cold, as these places can put an extra strain on the body. High altitudes also can be a problem if you have heart or lung disease. You may need to go up slowly to reach your high-altitude destination safely.

Be prepared

* Make sure you have a complete supply of your medicines stored in their original bottles, and keep them with you at all times in your carry-on bag.

* Take twice as much medicine as you need—or at least one week’s extra supply of medicines—in case you have problems getting home.

* Carry some basic first aid supplies and over-the-counter medicines, such as pain and fever medicine and antibiotic cream, to avoid late-night runs to the pharmacy.

* To limit walking problems, use the same walking aid you normally use, wear solid, broken-in walking shoes to avoid blisters, use a porter or a luggage cart so you don’t have to haul heavy suitcases, and call ahead for a wheelchair if you have trouble walking at airports.

* You may have to sit for long periods of time while you travel, so wear loose clothing and get up and walk around whenever you can to reduce stiffness, foot and leg swelling and the risk of blood clots. Also pack any support braces, stockings and bandages that you use for muscle or joint pain.

Don’t leave home without these!

* Carry a letter from your health care provider indicating that you have diabetes and what your treatment plan is so you can carry needles or other diabetes supplies. The letter also should mention if you take any special medicines, have a hearing aid,  artificial joint, or pacemaker that may set off metal detectors during airline security screening or cause a problems in customs.

* Carry a prescription for your diabetes medicine.

* It also is wise to wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace that shows you have diabetes.

* If you bring insulin, you can keep it at room temperature, but don’t allow it to get too hot or cold. Don’t store your insulin in the glove compartment of your car or in a backpack. Use an insulated travel pack to keep it cool.

Diabetes care on the go

What you do, how you eat, and even the time zone can affect your diabetes control.

* Check your blood glucose level more often so you can treat any problems that appear.

* If you take insulin, learn how to adjust your dose.  Problems such as traveler’s diarrhea or infections may prevent you from eating, may decrease your appetite and may change your insulin needs.

* Take care of your feet, especially if you have blood flow problems. Ask your health care provider how to best care for your feet if you plan to spend time in very hot or cold areas or expect to do a lot of walking. You may need to get special footwear.

* Check your feet each day for redness, cuts and blisters, and get proper treatment for any problems that develop.

* If an emergency occurs while you’re traveling, and you don’t have such a list, contact the American Consulate, American Express or local medical schools for a list of doctors.

* Lastly, learn how to say, “I have diabetes,” and “Sugar or orange juice, please,” in the language or languages of the countries you’ll visit.

Meal Planning

* When you fly, ask for a special diabetes meal a few days before you leave.

* If you order a diet soft drink, ask for the can so you can be sure that it is the exact type of drink you ordered.

* If you take mealtime insulin, do not inject it until your meal is in front of you. Meals can be delayed, and you don’t want to risk having a sudden drop in blood glucose level.

* In case of any delay, carry healthy snacks such as crackers, cheese, peanut butter, fruit and some form of fast-acting carbohydrate (hard candy or glucose tablets) to treat low blood glucose.

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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

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Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

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Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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