I am a firm believer that no disease should be an excuse for staying home. As a person with Type 1 Diabetes, I know that flying with an insulin pump can cause some worry for new travellers. I wear an insulin pump and fly all over the world on a regular basis. I hope this blog posts helps you prepare for an upcoming trip.
Certain aspects of Type 1 diabetes can cause complications, challenges and require a bit more planning than usual but all can be easily dealt with. Planning is key for being prepared as someone with T1D that travels. It’s not difficult, either, so long as you keep this advice for flying with an insulin pump in mind.
Make The Most of Your Packing
While insulin pump supplies can take up a bit of extra space in your luggage, that’s a small price to pay for the greater control, in my opinion. You can save space for more clothes by removing your pump supplies from its packaging and tucking them into small spaces or even inside your shoes.
I always take a lot more supplies than I think I will need. It is much easier to take extra than trying to get them in an emergency in a foreign country.
Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t want to check a bag, you can typically bring both a carry-on (for the overhead bin) and a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. Some airlines even let you bring an additional small bag if you need it for medical supplies, just ask yours in advance and you might score some extra space.
Always keep some of your diabetic supplies with you in case your luggage gets lost or stolen. You should also have spares in every bag, and have anyone you’re travelling with bring some spare supplies as well just to minimize (or, better yet, eliminate) the chance of you being without what you need. It is always good to be prepared for lost or misplaced luggage along the way.
Don’t Fret Security
Many people get nervous when going through airport security, especially if they have an insulin pump or any sort of medical supplies on them. However, you have to remember that TSA agents are trained to recognize and handle medical supplies every day–especially common items, like those needed for diabetics. I never remove my pump, but I do tuck in my shirt, so they can see it.
Keep these things in mind when flying with an insulin pump :
- Bring a doctor’s note: In most countries, airport security has the explicit right to ask you to show them proof that you’re legally allowed to carry insulin and other supplies. While they may not ask, you should have one just in case. I keep a doctor note and copies of my prescriptions saved on my phone, just in case. No reason to delay your travels over a piece of paper that you can easily get in advance!
- Avoid the X-ray: Your pump should never be put through the X-ray scanner and airport security should be aware of this. Always clearly state to the agent assisting that your pump is sensitive and cannot go through the machine. They will manually inspect it instead. You cannot wear it through the 360-degree scanner either, so ask that they pat you down instead.
- Use Frio Bags: Frio Bags are made specifically for insulin. Many products like them exist, but they basically keep your insulin cool while in your luggage. Keep in mind that your insulin (or Glucagon) does not count towards the limitations placed on how much liquid you can bring through security, so you can still bring your favourite shampoos and lotions!
Despite rules prohibiting passengers from bringing liquids over 100 ml (3.4 oz) through security, people with diabetes may take their insulin, other medications such as Glucagon, and other liquids and gels, including juice, through TSA checkpoints, even if they are in containers greater than 100 ml. Accessories required to keep insulin cool, such as freezer packs or frozen gel packs, are also permitted through the screening checkpoint.
When in doubt, always check the specific security regulations for the country you live in. If you’re travelling abroad, you’re going to want to check the policies for your destination country as well, along with any countries you are transiting through. For instance, if you’re headed from the United States to Australia and you have a stop over in New Zealand, you’ll need to check all three countries’ policies in advance to make sure your trip is breezy. Personally, I have travelled all over the world over the past few years with my insulin pump and not once had a problem in the airport security.
Tips for Your Flight
When in the air, you are permitted to use your diabetes supplies whenever you need them. You should also follow the typical travel tips, like drinking lots of water, bring snacks and plan your in-flight food in advance.
Other Things to Consider When Flying with an Insulin Pump
One thing you’ll need to keep in mind when traveling with an insulin pump is that you need to update the pump to be in sync with the local time zone of what ever place you are in. This ensures you will continue to get your insulin injections at the right increments.
This might sound like trouble at first, but for most people, it’s usually simple and painless to update the time of your pump rather than trying to keep track of intervals and manually dose with insulin pens. So, while it might take some getting used to, flying with an insulin pump will prove easy in no time–plus with all of the freedom it affords you, it will surely be worth it!
I hope this post helps you prepare for an upcoming trip! A great resource for diabetes information is Beyond Type 1. Don’t forget to check out more of my diabetes blog posts here and my videos on YouTube! Safe travels!