Taking insulin with you
A good general rule is to take with you twice the amount of insulin and other supplies that you might need. Insulin should never be in hold luggage as it cannot be allowed to freeze – but always have what you expect to need in your carry on luggage. Don’t put everything you need in your hold luggage in case of delays or luggage going missing. Split your supplies and carry some in your hand luggage or on your person. If you’re travelling with other people, it is a good idea to ask someone else to carry a spare kit for you too.
Carry emergency hypo treatment in the form of injectable glucagon, and make sure if you’re travelling with others that someone else knows how and when to administer it, in case you become extremely drowsy or lose consciousness. This is particularly important if you’re travelling off the beaten path, or to places where you can’t get emergency care easily.
When taking supplies with you, check that anything with an expiry date – such as glucose strips – will be usable for the whole time you’re away.
Glucose meters and test strips can be affected by extreme temperatures and humidity. The manual for your model should tell you the temperature range they perform best in – this is usually between 15° and 35°C.
- Some strips may give false highs in hot weather and false lows in cold weather.
- If you’re worried about inaccurate tests, you can use glucose solutions of known concentrations to check the accuracy of your strips/meter. The company that produces your kit should be able to provide vials of high, medium and low concentrations that you can use to check, though these usually expire after three months.
Bear in mind that insulin can be affected by extreme temperatures.
- Make sure you store your insulin out of direct sunlight and in a cool, dark place. You might want to invest in a cooling wallet to carry your insulin in, such as a FRÍO® wallet, which stays cool for at least 45 hours and can be repeatedly activated with water, or a wide-necked vacuum flask you can pre-cool.
- If you’re using anything frozen to keep your insulin cool, make sure that the insulin is not right beside it, as it could make the insulin freeze.
- Never put insulin into your hold luggage if you’re flying – pressure changes and freezing temperatures can damage it.
- Always check before you use the insulin that it hasn’t gone off. If clear insulin has gone cloudy, or if any insulin has lumps or clumps that won’t disperse on mixing, or if the bottle has particles sticking to the sides, or if there’s any colour change, then you shouldn’t use it.
If you’re travelling to high altitudes, be aware that this may affect how well insulin pens work. You may wish to bring syringes with you as well, just in case your pens fail – you can draw insulin from the cartridge, but make sure you don’t inject any air into it before you draw it.
If you use an insulin pump, you should also carry anything you need for your Pump Failure Plan. This includes insulin pens (with long-and short-acting insulin), so that you can go back to giving yourself subcutaneous injections if necessary.
- You could get in touch with your pump company before you go, as some companies are happy to provide a spare “holiday” pump in case your own pump gets damaged or stolen.
If you use a pump or continuous glucose monitor, you should also think about how the weather or other conditions at your destination could affect your infusion or adhesion site.
- If you’re going somewhere warm you might sweat more, and so you might want to bring something that will help the adhesive stick! This could be a solid antiperspirant, a sticky substance (e.g. Skin Tac or Mastisol) or medical tape to help keep your set in place. Remember to keep the skin clean at the point of insertion though, as applying any product to this area could damage your cannula or sensor, resulting in inaccurate readings or dosing.