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Managing Blood Sugar While Jet-Setting: Strategies for Dealing with Time Zone

by IBD Medical on September 21, 2023

Changes and Long FlightsManaging blood sugar while traveling across different time zones and enduring long flights can be a challenge for individuals with diabetes. However, with careful planning and preparation, you can effectively manage your condition during your journey. Here are some strategies to help you deal with time zone changes and long flights:


Before Your Trip - Consult Your Healthcare Provider: Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider or endocrinologist well in advance of your trip. Discuss your travel plans and ask for guidance on adjusting your insulin or medication schedule to accommodate time zone changes.

Medication and Supplies - Ensure you have an ample supply of insulin, oral medications, test strips, lancets, syringes or insulin pens, and any other necessary diabetes-related supplies. Pack extra in case of unexpected delays.

Prescription and Documentation - Request a written prescription for your medications and insulin, along with a letter from your healthcare provider explaining your medical condition and the need for these items during travel. Carry these documents in your carry-on bag.

Set Up Multiple Alarms - Set alarms on your phone or watch to remind you of medication or insulin doses, as well as blood sugar checks. Be mindful of the time zone changes when setting your alarms.

Because, your body doesn't register time zone changes. It primarily relies on the timing of your insulin doses. For example, if you typically take insulin every 12 hours and it's been 12 hours since your last dose, you should take it regardless of any time zone changes. Time zone changes don't affect your body's insulin needs; consistency in dosing is crucial.

During Your Flight - Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the flight to stay hydrated. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, which can lead to dehydration. 

Pack Snacks - Carry diabetes-friendly snacks in your carry-on bag to help manage your blood sugar during the flight. Good options include nuts, cheese, and low-carb snacks and some Glucochews if you need some fast acting Glucose.

Adjust Meal Timing - Coordinate your meal times with the destination's local time as soon as you board the plane. This can help your body start adjusting to the new time zone.

Move and Stretch - If possible, get up, move around, and stretch your legs during the flight. Inactivity for extended periods can affect blood circulation and insulin sensitivity.

Stay Organised - Always take extra supplies. Keep your diabetes supplies, medications, and snacks well-organised in a protected organiser in your carry-on bag for easy access during the flight.


After Arriving at Your Destination:

Gradual Adjustment - Gradually adjust your meal and medication schedules to align with the local time zone. It may take a day or two for your body to adapt fully.

Monitor Blood Sugar Closely - Monitor your blood sugar more frequently during the first few days in the new time zone to track any fluctuations and make necessary adjustments.

Stay Active - Engage in light physical activity, such as walking, to help your body adjust to the new time zone and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Plan Your Meals - Research local dining options and plan your meals accordingly. Be mindful of portion sizes and carbohydrate content.

Hydration - Continue to stay well-hydrated, especially in warmer climates, to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Be Prepared for Hypoglyceamia - Be aware that the risk of hypoglycemia may increase during the adjustment period. Carry glucose tablets or fast-acting sugar sources for emergencies.

Traveling across time zones and enduring long flights can disrupt your regular diabetes management routine, but with careful planning and flexibility, you can successfully manage your blood sugar during your journey. Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalised advice before your trip.

 Want more guidance and tips on nutrition, T1D exercise and health? Follow Andi at @thet1dnutritionist on instagram.



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