Nancy LeBrun is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer and producer who has been writing about health and wellness for more than six years
Kashif J. Piracha, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine and nephrology. He has an active clinical practice at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in Houston, Texas.
Type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to hold you back from traveling on airplanes. It’s important to be prepared, though, and let the right people know of your medical condition in advance. Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your body doesn’t use the hormone insulin effectively, which can cause high blood sugar (glucose).
This article will help you organize your travel plans and be ready to fly with less worry.

Erik Isakson / Getty Images
About a month before you go, see a healthcare provider so they can assess your blood sugar control and make any needed adjustments. Write down the details of your itinerary so your healthcare provider can see the duration of your flight and any changes in time zones in case they affect your medication schedule.
Make sure you have the prescription orders you need to have enough medication and supplies for your trip. Ask about backup prescriptions if you lose your medications while away. Get any immunizations your provider recommends as well.
You can help ease the way through the airport by knowing what documents can help make your Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security check more efficient. You should also have any medical documents you might need if you require medical assistance while away. Here's what to take with you to simplify your journey:
The American Diabetes Association works with the TSA to accommodate people with diabetes when they travel. TSA has a helpline and passenger support specialists at airports. Download the TSA app for access to this information.
Gather the medication and supplies you’ll need, double-check them, and make sure you have plenty of backups. The American Association of Diabetes Educators suggests doubling up on everything. For instance, if you can, take two glucose monitors and twice the amount of test strips you plan to use.
Put your supplies in a transparent bag and pack it in your carry-on luggage so that airport security can examine the supplies easily. This can help avoid additional questioning and delays. Other packing tips include:
Scanners should not affect your diabetes supplies or devices. If you wear an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, let security know, and you can request a pat down instead of a scan if you prefer.
Suitcases and bags can get lost when you travel, so keep your diabetes supplies and medications in your carry-on luggage. It will also safeguard the medications so that they aren’t exposed to moisture or extreme hot or cold temperatures in the cargo hold, which could make them less effective or even ruin them.
Before you fly, request low-fat and low-sugar meals from the airline. During the flight:
The variety of food around the world offers lots of interesting choices. But do some research before you go so that you know how common local ingredients might affect your blood sugar.
Monitor your glucose levels closely since you may not always know the ingredients in the foods you eat. Carry glucose or sugary snacks with you in case you need them.
If you’re planning any strenuous activity, let the people you’re with know that you have diabetes, and apprise them of what to do if you show signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
When you check your blood sugar, be aware that high altitude can affect your readings. Every 1,000 feet can mean a 1% to 2% reduction in the reading.
Airplane cabins are pressurized to keep air pressure about what it is at 8,000 feet. That could affect the function of the plunger in a syringe. Before you inject, take the plunger out and put it back in. That will equalize the pressure, and you'll be good to go.
If you use an insulin pen, discuss it with your healthcare provider and check the product information to see if any adjustments are needed for air travel or high altitude.

When you travel east or west, the time zone can change. Heading east, your travel day will be shorter, so you may need less insulin. If you're flying west, your travel day will be longer, and you may need more. Talk to your healthcare provider to understand how to adjust your medication schedule for time zone changes, if recommended.
Stress and excitement can raise blood sugar levels as your body increases the energy needed to handle stressful situations. Your body may also be less sensitive to insulin due to higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
The following are ways to help manage stress on flights:
If you feel you may need it, don't hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider about antianxiety or antidepressant medication before you fly.
After you land, check your blood sugar as soon as you get to a place you can do so. The altitude, excitement, and food could all have had an effect on your glucose levels, so make a point of seeing where you are. That way, you can take steps to adjust your levels and avoid any ill effects.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you can travel and stay healthy by being prepare and informed and by notifying the right people about your diabetes before you fly. See your healthcare provider before you go and follow their recommendations for any medication adjustments.
Pack more than enough diabetes supplies and medicine. Be prepared for security screenings by having documentation of your condition. Carry your medication and supplies with you on the plane. Let the airline know about dietary needs and check your blood sugar if you fly for more than four hours.
If you inject insulin during the flight, take the plunger out of the syringe and put it back in to equalize the air pressure. Check your blood sugar when you arrive, and check out the local food to get an idea of how it might affect your glucose levels.
Taking care of yourself when you have diabetes takes some extra effort, but there's no need to feel daunted by the prospect of flying. Think ahead, let the airline and authorities know you have diabetes, pack thoughtfully, and be prepared. Then you can enjoy your time, knowing how to manage your diabetes and make any adjustments necessary along the way.
Yes. High altitudes above 8,000 feet increase the risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It's important to monitor your glucose level carefully if you are at higher altitudes. Bear in mind that your glucose meter may underestimate your blood sugar levels at about 1% to 2% for every 1,000 feet in elevation.
Yes. You can and should take your insulin on a plane. Always put it in your carry-on luggage so that it doesn't get lost or lose potency due to temperature and moisture changes.
No. The TSA doesn't require you to bring your prescriptions, but it could make getting through security easier, if they have questions about what you're bringing. If possible, have your meds and supplies in their original containers with the prescription labels clearly visible.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 21 tips for traveling with diabetes.
Mullin R, Kruger D, Young CF, Shubrook JH. Navigating travel with diabetes. CCJM. 2018;85(7):537-542. doi:10.3949/ccjm.85a.17105
American Diabetes Association. Air travel and diabetes.
American Association of Diabetes Educators. Have diabetes, will travel.
Transportation Security Administration. Can you pack your meds in a pill case and more questions answered.
American Diabetes Association. What can I bring with me on the plane?
American Diabetes Association. Flying with diabetes.
By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue,, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.

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