So you've decided you may want to make the switch to a pump, or you already have a pump and are now deciding you want to go on holiday somewhere. So maybe you have some of the following questions ...
"Do you have trouble at the airports when travelling with an insulin pump?"
"Do you ever just switch back to insulin pens?"
"Is it annoying carrying insulin pump supplies?"
The answer is...yes, no and maybe! Keep reading...
When I travel I always bring an insulin pump and insulin pens with me, and if I am on a long term trip, I will bring a spare insulin pump too. This is for many reasons, one being that I need backup insulin if my pump fails me, and another being there are actually situations in which the insulin pump just won’t cooperate with. This ranges from hot springs, to water parks to scuba diving (I am sure there is more that I am yet to discover!).
I hope to one day visit Iceland and embrace the lagoons there, but when in Chile, Bradley and I ventured off into our car and came across a deserted area in the location of a volcano which not only produced breathtaking scenery, but some amazing (albeit ridiculously hot) hot springs!
With my particular insulin pump, I am able to take it off for up to half an hour (so when I shower), but if you are chilling in a hot spring for longer than that, you don’t want be jumping in and out to re attach your pump etc, some people will, but I prefer a simple life! It is the same with water parks, my insulin pump isn't waterproof so it is a definite no no in the water, so I always pop my pump in a locker and switch back to insulin pens for a day!
There is always a little relief of freedom when you have a day without travelling with an insulin pump, I never do feel restricted by it because of the amazing benefits it gives me, but it is nice to run around a water park without wires hanging out of you!
Many people ask me how do I make the switch over?
I think this is personal to every diabetic, but my diabetic specialist nurse recommended a 20% increase in the pen of what I would usually have in my bolus….I don’t use a background insulin when I am off a pump for a day, simply because my Lantus lasts 24 hours, and that means after I finish my event at a water park or lagoon, I have to wait until the next day to re attach my pump, which I would rather not.
Fast acting insulin lasts around 4 hours (Humalog for me) and as long as I monitor, I never have any issues. However, if you decide to switch back to insulin pens for the duration of a holiday, this becomes a “pump holiday”, and you should discuss with your DSN the appropriate amount of background insulin you need!
I am going to list some problems that I anticipated from travelling with an insulin pump, and others I have read online….then I will back them up with my solution (providing I have one).
If you are travelling to somewhere with a different time zone, this is actually going to change your basal rates of which your body is used to a certain amount of insulin at a certain time at your “home” time, but actually this is a lot easier to rectify on insulin pump, than pens, I feel. With an insulin pump, all you need to do it reset the times to the time of your country you are in, and you will still get insulin at the right amounts!
Yes insulin pumps, I will admit have more packaging, and products and just items you would rather have clothes and souvenirs in! I am a clothes fanatic, so this does actually bother me. However, you have to weigh up the pros and cons.
Do you sacrifice great control for a few extra dresses? Of course not! You're dealing with your life, but there are plenty of ways to save space with pump supplies. I usually remove all packaging, and test strips I stuff in socks, sensors go into small plastic sealed bags and stuff in shoes, and infusion sets also get stacked in socks, oh and insulin goes in Frio bags.
Did you know most airlines will let you carry an extra bag, (small handbag) to carry medical supplies, contact them in advance, but this proves super useful for me wherever I travel! Shout out to Ryanair, British Airways and Easyjet for making life easier!
Varying altitude can have an affect on both your insulin and insulin pump, however it really isn't anything major or to worry about, it won’t completely overturn your life, especially if you are away for a short break. I have written more detail about how altitude can affect both insulin pumps and diabetes in general so you can find out more!
I have spoke in the past about flying with diabetes, but the specifics on insulin pump, I have experience on. I have actually only ever flew with an insulin pump, so I know no different!
Here are my three tips to smooth sailing in the airport and in the air
The only time I had an issue was with a “young” lady in Gatwick London when I was flying back from London to Belfast. I have done this route in both directions frequently, and she decided to tell me I could put my pump through a scanner, insisting I could because she had seen another person with an insulin pump doing it.
I explained to her everyone is different and I have a doctor's letter, which she ignored and decided to push me towards the x ray machine- granted I was mad and refused to cooperate so she called two others over, whom were lovely and apologetic once I explained the situation.
If I ever bump into said lady again on my next journey from London to Belfast, I will be reporting her straight away. I should have at the time, but I was a little overwhelmed. Travelled all over the world, but it was England I had the problem- typical. Be firm with people, it’s your health and noone can make you do anything you don't want to.
I know a lot of my american readers have some trouble with the TSA and insulin pumps (I thankfully haven't) but check out their guidelines to help prepare yourself beforehand!
Let me know if you have any other tips for travelling with an insulin pump, or if you have taken a pump holiday before! If you'd like a full comprehensive guide of travelling with diabetes, with over 80 pages of advice, tips, tricks, resources, and more, then download the exclusive e-book today! Designed for type 1 diabetics around the world.