Diabetes and Air Travel – Managing your Medication Across Time Zones

Travelers with diabetes face a lot of risks as far as managing their diabetes, especially with long-haul travel across time zones

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Air Travel Diabetes - Everyday Diabetes Magazine

Research presented at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 2016 Annual Meeting last week shows that flying across multiple time zones requires that patients adjust their diabetes medication — an issue of great importance for those with type 1 or type 2 diabetic patients using insulin.

Rahul Suresh, a physician training in internal medicine and aerospace medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch told Medscape Medical News:

“Travelers with diabetes face a lot of risks as far as managing their diabetes, especially with long-haul travel across time zones. They have to be prepared in advance, and that requires adjusting their insulin or oral diabetes medicines. With proper adjustments, we think we can help people avoid complications like hypoglycemia and have a safe trip.”

The literature is limited and much of the evidence is anecdotal, reports Medscape, but there is some evidence that up to 10% of people with diabetes encounter some complications during travel.

“Each year, millions of people with diabetes travel by air, with an estimated 10 percent suffering from in-flight diabetes-related complications during air travel,” said Suresh.

“Air travel on flights across multiple time zones disrupts the normal timing of meals and medication dosing, increasing the risk that travelers with diabetes will incorrectly dose their medication. Our goal was to develop a concise and updated set of recommendations for safe management of diabetes during air travel across multiple time zones.”

The research showed the most common problem is hypoglycemia, while adding that 2% of medical emergencies requiring diversion of aircraft are caused by problems related to diabetes.

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