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Have diabetes, will travel

Thanks to modern medicine, even people with diabetes find there’s practically no limit to the places they can go or the things they can do—provided they’re properly prepared.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, don’t think you can’t tour Europe. But before wishing the neighborhood bon voyage, you do need to take some precautions to guarantee your dream getaway doesn’t become a health nightmare.

The American Diabetes Association suggests you begin by thinking through your trip from start to finish—taking into account whether you’ll be changing time zones, diets or activity levels—because you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

Making sure

First stop: the doctor’s office for a checkup. While there, be sure to obtain a letter from your physician explaining your diabetic condition, how you treat it (especially if you inject insulin) and allergies. And get an extra prescription in case you should lose or misplace your medication.

Take along your diabetes ID bracelet or necklace. You can buy one from the Medic Alert Foundation, 1-888-633-4298, or Medicool Inc., 1-800-433-2469. For overseas trips, know how to say “sugar” or “orange juice” in the native language. Get inoculated against hepatitis A and any other diseases you may catch in some other countries, such as malaria.

How can you tell what vaccines are needed? Most hospitals can advise you, or you can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for more information. But get them in time: Some vaccines take up to three weeks to be effective.

On the road again

The night before you travel, make sure you have these items:

  • twice the medication and syringes you need for your journey (if you’re flying, pack half in your carry-on and the rest in your checked suitcase)
  • enough blood and urine test kits
  • extra batteries for your glucose meter
  • medicine for diarrhea and nausea and an antibiotic cream for cuts
  • a snack pack of crackers and cheese, juice, fruit, peanut butter and hard candy

In addition, think about where you’ll store your insulin. Though it doesn’t need refrigeration, insulin can lose potency if it gets too hot or too cold. And if you’re leaving your time zone, your days may become longer or shorter than normal. Know your itinerary to make certain you don’t miss a scheduled dose of insulin or a meal.

Doctor’s orders: Relax

After you’ve arrived, take a couple of days to ease into your vacation. Monitor your blood sugar closely. If you go sightseeing, stick to your meal and medication schedule religiously.

When ordering exotic cuisine, ask about the ingredients beforehand and avoid tap water or beverages with ice cubes unless you’re positive the local H20 has been purified.

Finally, don’t go barefoot. An infection could put your vacation in jeopardy. Wear comfortable shoes and socks and check every night for blisters, swelling or redness. Seek prompt medical help at the first sign of a problem.

By following these tips, you’ll ensure that your well-deserved vacation is time and money well spent.