Hi everyone! My name is Rebecca Gillen and I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 15 years. I’m a senior in college and I’m a Virtual Intern at The Diabetes Link! I wear a Medtronic pump and a Dexcom to help me manage my diabetes. I went out of state for college, so I had to make an 8-hour car ride when I wanted to go home.
Road trips are a time of excitement (unless you’re driving across Western Kansas, and believe me, that is not exciting). You’re on the road, seeing sights, and excited to get to your destination. Have you ever noticed how your blood sugars may be a bit wacky on days when you ride in the car for several hours? Me too. So, I’ve created some tips for how to help manage diabetes while on the road!
1) ALWAYS have juice and snacks with you in the car.
Remember how I said driving across Western Kansas is super boring? Well, it also has a lack of gas stations for several miles at a time. To avoid being in the middle of nowhere and having a low blood sugar without any gas stations around to stop at, always have juice and snacks in your car before your even leave for your trip. I typically will keep a bag of Smarties in the door pocket of wherever I’m sitting in the car, and a couple of juice boxes in my purse where I can easily reach them (i.e. not buried in the luggage in the far back of the car). Whether or not you know you will have lots of places to stop and get juice and snacks in case of a low, it’s just a good idea to keep some quick sugar in the car with you.
2) Keep your test kit (and receiver for CGM users) handy.
This tip may seem obvious, but if you’re driving and need to test your blood sugar, you’ll want to make sure you can easily reach your supplies.
3) If you use a pump, consider starting a temporary basal.
I’ve noticed on my travels that if I sit in the car for more than 3-4 hours, my blood sugars will start to run high, simply because I’m sitting all day! I know, it sounds silly, but it’s true. So, I’ll do a temp basal on my pump of 120-130% of my regular basal to keep my blood sugars from staying high the whole time I’m in the car. Make sure to talk to your doctor about what will be the best game plan for your trip!
4) Stay hydrated.
While this is just good life advice, it’s especially important for those of us with diabetes. As we all know, diabetes can have a mind of its own sometimes. Blood sugars may run higher on days when you’re traveling in the car because you’re not physically active much, and you may get snacks from gas stations that have high sugar content. So, if your blood sugar does get high, make sure you are already hydrated well enough to battle the potential of ketones.
5) You know how EVERYTHING impacts blood sugars? Well, elevation is one of those things!
Keep in mind that your destination may be at a higher or lower elevation than you’re used to. You may need to increase or decrease your insulin based on how your blood sugars start to trend. Talk to your doctor about what to expect with changes in elevation and how you can manage them.
6) Check more often.
If you wear a CGM and it’s being accurate the day of your travels, wonderful. However, if you don’t wear a CGM or your CGM is being inaccurate, you may want to check your blood sugar more often. Sitting in a car all day may cause hypo/hyperglycemia unawareness. I know hypo unawareness happens to me every time I drive for a long time. So, consider checking every 1-1.5 hours to see what’s going on with your blood sugars and to be able to catch highs and lows sooner.
7) In case of emergencies…
In the unfortunate event that an emergency happens, make sure you start your drive by wearing a medical ID bracelet and have updated emergency contact information in an easy to find place. I know I struggle with wearing my ID bracelet, but it’s really important especially when driving.
I hope these tips help you as much as they do me! Go get out there, take a spontaneous road trip, and manage diabetes like a boss! If all else fails, just remember to have fun and enjoy your trip!
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