Maneuvering the Airport!

I hear over and over again to prepare. Always have a backup. I take 3 of everything just in case. I did have a situation where my backup pen broke and luckily I had a syringe and vial of Humalog for just such an emergency.

I’ve written and read many articles and blogs on traveling with diabetes. What I have found is very little about how to manage and deal once you are at your destination. So, for the next few blogs, I am going to address travel to help you on your journey.

My story starts at sea level in New York City at 7 a.m. (5 a.m. Guatemala time.) I hop in a cab and think: “Did I forget something, the door?” Wait! “Stop the car!” I run back upstairs and check the door. It is locked. “What a relief,” I say to myself and laugh a little. Having a sense of humor is a good thing with diabetes helps ease the rough times.

I get back in the cab, and we are on our way. I didn’t have to worry about my diabetes stuff because I had triple backups with me including a loaner pump from the manufacturer. So, no worries there!

We arrive at the airport. I wonder, “Am I going to have issues getting through security or will things go smoothly?” How you approach any situation can determine the outcome. I approach security with the only thing that matters, getting to the other side and on the plane. Everything else and I quote Richard Carlson, Ph.D. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it is all small stuff!” Thanks for the great advice on life and reducing its stressful moments.

Some airports have handy capable sections of security, where security officers are more familiar with helping those with disabilities get through security. So, ask before entering that long line at security. A lot of times, but not always, the line in the handy capable section is shorter.

Disability Act of 1990
Diabetes falls under the disability act of 1990 in the United States. People with diabetes that need to bring things like syringes, blood glucose monitors and pumps, which can’t be x-rayed, depending on battery type, fall under reasonable accommodations under this act.

Not all the airport have a handy capable section, depending on where and how large the airport. You can check ahead online or by calling the airline before you go to see if they have a handy capable section.

If they don’t have that section, still inform security as you get to the entrance to the security. The security officer will tell you the procedure. If they don’t know, or they don’t have a procedure in place, tell the security personnel who help you just before the x-ray machines.

Tell them that you have diabetes, and your pump and continuous blood glucose monitor cannot be x-rayed or taken off. Most of the times they will walk you around the x-ray machine and pat you down. Remember this is the procedure, and it is only a problem if you make it one.

Keep Calm!
Keep in mind that if you make it a problem, you will have a problem. If you remind yourself this is just a procedure needed to travel by plane, and it is not about you, traveling becomes easier and less cumbersome.

A smooth trip through security is one where you make it to the other side and everything else, are just small bumps in the road.  Does it matter if you are manually searched via a pat down? When in a few hours you are on some beach sipping your favorite drink, enjoying a well-deserved break from your normal life or enjoying the company of friends or family who lives far away.

Many things may happen to get through security. Remember your goal and that it is part of normal operating procedures designed to stop bad things from happening on your journey to where you are going, and security checks are for your safety.

Few last thoughts:

  • Airports are big! You are carrying luggage while walking, so adjust for the exercise. You can reduce insulin or eat something to counteract the carbs the journey burns off.
  • Airplanes are small! For a long flight that you are sitting for extended periods of time and are reducing the number of carbs you are burning off. You may need to increase insulin and check blood sugars more often. Speak with your certified diabetes educator if you are unsure of what adjustments you may need to make.
  • Airports are big! Once again, after touching down and leaving the airplane, you are carrying luggage while walking, so adjust for the exercise. You can reduce insulin or eat something to counteract the carbs the journey burns off.
  • Anxiety increases! So will your blood sugar levels due to increased cortisol release. Check blood sugars often and adjust when needed.
  • Breathe! Take deep breaths to reduce anxiety by increasing oxygen levels in the body.
  • Keep busy! Bring things to do on the plane that you enjoy and make you relax.

Stay tuned, for more from Guatemala next week. Same diabetes channel, same diabetes time!

Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For more information go to his website or Facebook Page or set up a free 30-minute phone consultation to see if talk therapy is right for you.

Medical Disclaimer:
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.

One thought on “Maneuvering the Airport!

  1. Great info. My 21 year old with type 1 is traveling to Greece and Spain for study abroad. I’ll tell him to read through your traveling posts before he leaves! Thanks for your insight!


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