Traveling with Diabetes – Insulin Pumper Specifics
Only a person who wears an insulin pump and likes it would get this, but I have found that wearing an insulin pump is uniquely liberating when it comes to most travel. There are some factors to consider, for sure, but a heavy travel schedule was the primary reason I first pursued an insulin pump in 1998. One of the tricks of traveling with diabetes is that time zone changes can be a challenge. At the time, I had a job that included significant international travel, and my diabetic control was slipping just a bit. An insulin pump fixed that and a few other things too. But that’s just my experience, and this is focused on those who already have pumps and are preparing to travel.
My basics and security posts offer a pretty good primer on getting ready to travel, but there are a few things insulin pump wearers need to be aware of that are specific to us. First, know the requirements of your pump for security. I am not aware of any pump that the manufacturer has blessed to be worn through an advanced imaging technology scanner, fondly called nudascope by many in jest. So check with your manufacturer for specifics on your device.
I’m sure you have already packed all sorts of back up syringes, infusion sets, etc, that we covered back in basics, but have you packed a back up insulin pump? Wait..what? My first insulin pump actually came with a back up, but not so for my pump manufactured by Medtronic. If you have an issue domestically, they can have one delivered the next day, but what if you are traveling outside the country? Medtronic offers a travel loaner. Simply complete a form online, and they will provide you a “loaner” pump to take with you on your international journey. They also recommend doing so on cruises and travels to Alaska and Hawaii as well. Personally, I haven’t taken a loaner pump on short cruises to the Bahamas (I probably should, and likely will going forward), but certainly take one on longer cruises. All manufacturers may not offer a travel loaner, so it’s best to check with yours directly.
In 15 years of insulin pumping, I have not yet experienced a “catastrophic” failure of an insulin pump. However, it is always best to be prepared, so make the call about a loaner pump and take advantage of it if it’s available. Finally, read this blog post, and print the airport emergency card that it links to.
In summary, insulin pumps offer new flexibilities to many people with diabetes, including diabetic travelers. Work with your physician to identify any specific needs for your situation, and hopefully some of the tips shared here and throughout this series will contribute to many successful miles of traveling. I hope you’ve found my traveling with diabetes series informative and useful as you prepare for your travels.
-MJ, June 18, 2013