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Travelling With Diabetes!?

Posted by Donman1990 on 13/6/2012 at 02:34

I know that there are a few threads on this already, but most of these are a few years old and I wanted to see any new information that people might have.

I'm a type 1 Diabetic, and I'm in the process of planning a 5-6 month trip into south east Asia and Japan next year, which will include Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I have done a small amount of travel with my diabetes before hand (2 weeks in Thailand), but this time I will be going for longer and into arguably less developed areas. I just wondered if there were any other travel fish users who have traveled with Diabetes or know someone who has that could offer some advice, particularly related around access to regular food sources, travelling with insulin, have people taken large amounts over? or bought it whilst travelling? Any advice really would be appreciated!!

#1 Donman1990 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 34

Posted by MADMAC on 13/6/2012 at 06:32

I can check at our pharmacy here concerning insulin availability if you want. I live in rural Thailand.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Donman1990 on 13/6/2012 at 19:12

Hi Madmac, I'm not intending on going into Thailand, but if it's not too much trouble that would be great, just to get a general idea of what availability is like!

#3 Donman1990 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 34

Posted by ericgsmith on 15/10/2012 at 00:59

Hi Donman,

I realise this is an old post but in case you are still planning or anybody else finds this I thought I'd post some info.

I also have type 1 diabetes and recently (well, over a year ago now but it feels recent!) spent 4 months in SE Asia. I was in Indonesia mainly, but also Laos.

First off - get health insurance that includes helicoptering you out. You will need to get to Thailand from Laos or Cambodia if you get into serious trouble.

Secondly, contrary to normal packing advise, always carry more than you need with regards to your insulin and whatever sweets / glucose you normally use to treat your lows. While you can normally find juice and sweets at shops during the day, you need to be prepared for worst case of having a few lows during a night where nothing is open. Glucose powder is probably the easiest to carry in large quantities, although whenever I tried to buy it in Thailand I failed to properly communicate what I wanted!

That brings me to the next point, try to learn a few key phrases that you won't find in a guide book. E.g "i have diabetes", "i need sugar", etc. Writing them down is handy, but bear in mind not everybody is literate.

Think about getting a medic alert - https://www.medicalert.co.nz/content/about-medicalert/medicalert-worldwide.aspx . Nobody I met knew what it was, but I didn't meet any doctors so it can't hurt!

I travelled with 6 months supply of insulin in a cooling pack. https://frioinsulincoolingcase.com/eshop/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=58
Absolutely brilliant, just soak in water and it'll be cool for days. I had to take the insulin cartridges out the packaging to fit them all in. When travelling on buses and trains keep it in your day pack. Packed into your main pack under a bus will probably overheat the insulin.

I never bought insulin from the pharmacies but I imagine you can. I bough checking strips and they worked fine. The insulin you buy will be the same as the locals use so it's not dodgy like buying speed over the counter or anything like that! Check the website for the company that produces your insulin. They will likely have reps all over the world.

On a general note, I found my insulin use dropping by almost a third due to the heat and exercise. Obv consult your doctor about changing your regime etc.

This probably all seems rather cautious and stressful, but most of the time you wont be thinking of it. A few days to get into the routine, with extra checking and getting your new habits formed, and you can forget about it and enjoy your trip!

Hope you have a good time, if I've missed anything I'll add it later. Let me know if you have any questions.

#4 ericgsmith has been a member since 1/9/2012. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 23

Posted by Donman1990 on 15/10/2012 at 19:46

Thanks Eric, all that advice is extremely helpful! I actually recently just bought an extra large Frio Wallet, after reading mostly only positive reviews so it's good to hear first hand experience that it works well! Did you find that one extra large wallet was enough for 6 months supplies?

How did you find just general day to day eating, was it easy enough to adjust your medication to say differences in kind of carbs you were eating etc?
Once again, greatly appreciated I still have a few months before I depart, it's really good to hear from other travelers with diabetes!

#5 Donman1990 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 34

Posted by ericgsmith on 16/10/2012 at 22:46

On second thought / recollection 6 months was too much to fit. I found it easy to carry a small cooler bag around and buy ice from town to town. Will be tricky if you get to places with limited electricity but more convenience stores or bars will have ice you can buy.

Day to day eating was fine once I was used to it. Most of what I was eating was carb based, i.e. noodles soups or stuff with rice, so it was fairly easy to adjust insulin levels. I always gave after eating rather than before because you never know what your going to get, or if your sick how much your going to eat until after the meal.

Things that did have to be watched carefully was thai food (they love putting extra sugar in everything it seems, including bread). And also high fat meals like coconut based curries. I'd recently seen a nutritionist before I left so I had a pretty good knowledge around what foods were likely to do what to my control.

Out of interest when around you leaving for your trip?

#6 ericgsmith has been a member since 1/9/2012. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 23

Posted by Donman1990 on 17/10/2012 at 08:06

Yeah, I haven't tried putting that much in the extra large wallet. I was planning on taking two with me they're compact enough so I couldn't see it being a huge issue! But it sounds like it was easy enough for you to find ways to keep your insulin cool anyway, so hopefully I won't have any problems. Good advice with the food, I should also talk to my dietitian before I leave, see what she suggests.
I'm leaving late February, and hope to be there till mid to late June. Out of curiosity what kind of Insulin were you using during your trip?

#7 Donman1990 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 34

Posted by ericgsmith on 17/10/2012 at 18:13

Lantus for basil and Humalog for bolus.

I'm actually going to be going back in February as well. Landing in Singapore on Feb 6th and have 4 months to make it up through to Cambodia and then Laos. Who knows might bump into you when your over there!

#8 ericgsmith has been a member since 1/9/2012. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 23

Posted by Donman1990 on 18/10/2012 at 05:24

Cool, I'll be using Levemir and Novorapid, which in the past has been quite flexible for me. I should be in Cambodia and Laos around march and may, so let me know if you're about!

#9 Donman1990 has been a member since 7/4/2012. Posts: 34

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