Travelling by air
No matter what type of diabetes you have, it’s essential to prepare for air travel to reduce the risks associated with diabetes and flying.
Talk to your health care team at least three months before you plan to fly and make sure you follow airline security regulations for your medication and equipment.
Tips for packing your carry-on bags
- Place all your medication, insulin, Glucagon, delivery devices and testing equipment in your carry-on luggage, preferably split between two of your bags in case one goes missing.
- Unless you’re travelling alone, it’s a good idea to give one bag to your travel partner to carry.
- Pack a separate small bag with the bare minimum quantity of insulin, injection devices, testing equipment and hypo treatment needed for the flight. If flying long-haul, pack enough for the first leg and refill it before each new leg.
- EXTRA PRECAUTION—Wear some form of medical identification that says you have diabetes.
Going through airport security
Can security x-rays damage my equipment?
It’s unlikely that exposure to security equipment x-rays will harm your insulin. If you’re worried, ask airport security staff to physically check you and your baggage rather than going through the x-ray equipment.
Security staff are obliged to respond to such requests under regulations administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and Cities.
Do I have to remove my insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor when going through airport security?
If you use an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, you’re not required to remove it at a security point.
If security staff ask you to remove your pump or continuous glucose monitor, you have the right to request access to a private consultation room, which security is obliged to provide. You can also ask for this room if security staff need to discuss your condition.
In-flight care tips
During your flight, there are some things you can do to make your journey an enjoyable one.
- When boarding, you can choose to tell your flight attendant that you have diabetes so they can cater to your needs.
- Keep your diabetes supplies where you can reach them immediately, such as in the seat pocket in front of you. Avoid putting them under your seat or in the overhead locker.
- Wait until your meal is on the table in front of you before having insulin or oral medications. For added safety, you can take your insulin either halfway through or immediately after your meal if there’s an unplanned interruption.
- Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol—drink enough water to avoid dehydration.
- Sleep whenever possible and ask the cabin crew to wake you up for meals.
- Wear comfortable shoes and exercise your feet to help prevent swelling.
- Move around the cabin as often as you can. Walking up and down the aisle aids circulation, helps to keep your blood glucose levels under control and helps prevent deep vein thrombosis. If you’re not able to walk around, regularly move your feet and legs while sitting in your seat.
Decreased activity while you’re on the plane, together with the amount of food given on flights, often results in increased blood glucose levels. These return to normal once you get back to your routine at your destination.
Should I wear a support hose when flying?
During long-haul flights, support hoses can help prevent swelling and may reduce the risk of clotting in the veins of the legs. Before buying a support hose, check with your diabetes health care team to see if they’re suitable for you.
Support hoses aren’t suitable for those with reduced circulation, due to conditions such as peripheral neuropathy (a condition caused by damage to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system which usually affects the hands, feet and legs).
Australian airline security regulations
There are specific Australian airline security regulations for people with diabetes. It’s essential to make appropriate arrangements when planning your trip so that you comply with the following regulations:
- You must carry all diabetes supplies, including testing equipment, insulin and Glucagon delivery devices (syringes and pen needles and insulin pump consumables) in the hand luggage of the person who has diabetes and whose name appears on the airline ticket. It is advisable to pack extra insulin in the person’s checked-in luggage.
- Your name must appear on all insulin and/or Glucagon prescription labels.
- You must carry prescriptions for all medications and check them before you go to make sure they are readable. Each prescription must include your name, the name and type of your medication and your doctor’s contact details.
- You must carry your NDSS registration card, as this is accepted as primary proof that a person with insulin-treated diabetes needs to carry their diabetes equipment with them. Additional photographic proof of identity, such as a driver’s licence or passport may also be required.
- You must carry several copies of a letter from your doctor, as you will need this to get through Customs. The letter should outline any medical conditions, any medications you take and the devices you use for your insulin and blood glucose testing, such as insulin pens, syringes and needles or pump unit. It should also stress the importance of carrying your medications with you. Check beforehand that the letter is readable!
- International travellers can carry no more than 100 ml of liquid per container, including aerosols and gels, in their carry-on baggage. All liquids must fit into a transparent resealable plastic bag no bigger than one litre (approx. 20 cm by 20 cm). People with diabetes who need to carry supplies of insulin are exempt from this rule; however, they will need to present the insulin at the security point and carry proof of both their condition and their need for insulin.
Not travelling with an Australian airline? Make sure you check specific security guidelines with your chosen airline before you travel.
Refer to Medicine and substances on the Australian Border Force website, for what to do when entering and leaving Australia.