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T1D and Summer Vacation: How to Travel With Your Child

Family On A Car

Type 1 diabetes affects an estimated 1.25 million Americans. This autoimmune disorder causes the affected person's own immune system to destroy pancreatic beta cells. This results in the pancreas’ inability to make insulin, eliminating the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

While the diabetic's body can't control blood glucose levels on its own, diabetics can get the same result through medications. Managing type 1 requires insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump. Unlike with type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes won't impact the body enough to cause a substantial result.

Insulin delivery systems and products have come a long way since the days of packing a cooler and having to use vials and syringes. But that doesn't mean there aren't limitations to how diabetics can store their insulin or travel with it.

If your child has type 1 diabetes, take a look at what you need to know about insulin, diabetes, and your summer vacation plans.

Bring a Travel Letter

Understandably, the U.S.'s Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and other government safety agencies around the world have strict policies for what you can and can't bring onto flights. If your summer vacation plans include air travel, you'll need a formal doctor's travel note. This should detail all of the medications and testing supplies that your child needs, stating that these are medically necessary.

Along with insulin, the note should include all testing supplies, syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitors, pump supplies, an emergency glucagon kit, and anything else that your child needs to regulate their blood sugar.

Instead of transferring medications and supplies into baggies or travel containers, keep them (if possible) in their original packaging with the pharmacy's prescription label on them. This can reduce confusion in the event that the TSA (or other country's) agent doesn't know which products the letter specifies.

The travel letter can also state that your child needs to carry sugar pills or juice in the event of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Keep in mind that the TSA (or another country's safety agency) may not permit some containers on flights — especially when it comes to packaged liquids. Check with the agency before assuming that you can bring a large-sized juice box or full bottle of juice onto a plane. You may need to split these into smaller, clear containers.

Keep a Cool Carry-On

Depending on what type of insulin you use, after being opened (and removed from refrigeration) it may last for only a few weeks to a month. Always travel with extra insulin. You may think that you only need to bring one pen or a specific number of insulin pump cartridges. But your child could lose or break a pen or vial, or you may have calculated incorrectly.

Instead of stashing unopened insulin in your luggage, keep the extras in an insulated, cooled carry-on. Subjecting the insulin to the warm temperatures of airline cargo holds or the heat of a car’s trunk can make the medication unusable.

Along with keeping it cool, bring the extra insulin with you; it can come in handy in the event that your child's pen stops working mid-flight or another similar type of malfunction happens.

Create an Insulin Check Routine

Do you have your child's insulin with you? What about their glucose tablets or glucagon kit? Keep everything together in one kit or bag. This makes it easy to know what you have and where it is.

Before leaving the airport, getting into the car, or going to a restaurant on your beach vacation, always check to make sure that you have your child's kit. Work this check into your travel routine, making it a natural part of your family's day.

Do you need insulin, insulin products or other diabetes testing products? Contact Trans Alliance Med & Drugs for more information.