Travelling with Your Pump
Most insulin pump companies offer what is called a ‘holiday pump’ – this is a spare pump to travel with, giving you peace of mind should your usual pump fail while you are away. Contact the customer services department of your insulin pump company to discuss this option.
You must always remember to have spare supplies for your pump when you are travelling. If you are travelling across time zones, remember to change the clock on your pump to the new local time once you arrive at your destination. Don't forget to change it back when you get home!
For more information see What is Insulin Pump Therapy?
When going through security at the airport, do not let your pump go through the baggage x-ray machines or full body scanners.
Ask your diabetes team for a travel letter. This informs airport security you are wearing an insulin pump which should not be x-rayed or removed. It also advises airport staff you may also be carrying a spare holiday pump.
Medical device awareness card
Following a number of complaints regarding security officers asking people with devices such as CGM's or insulin pumps to either remove their device or go through body scanners, you can now carry a Medical Device Awareness Card.
The card contains information for both the passenger and security officer. It has been in use in the UK since 2019 and is endorsed by the ICAO Aviation Security Panel to improve global guidance on security screening for passengers with medical devices.
The video below gives more guidance on the Medical Device Awareness Card:
Going to the beach
You may wish to spend the day on the beach, in which case wearing your pump all the time might be a problem, especially if you are going in and out of the water.
If you wish to remove your pump for part of the day, discuss this with your insulin pump nurse who will be able to provide you with useful information on how to do this safely.
The following points are useful to note if you are going to spend time at the beach:
- Keep the pump out of direct sunlight. If you are sunbathing, put a towel over the pump and line and keep it in the shade where possible. If insulin becomes too hot it can stop working, which means your blood glucose level will rise very quickly.
- FRÍO is a company that specialises in cooling products, including travel wallets for carrying insulin. These are water-activated bags which will keep the insulin cool for 24 hours. For more information see https://friouk.com/
- Think about where you site your pump especially if you are wearing a bathing suit or bikini. In hot weather the tape on your cannula may not stick as well as usual, especially if it is very hot and you are sweating. To help the tape stick better, you may need to put a second piece of tape over the cannula site.
- Useful products are Cavilon barrier cream or spray, Skin Tac barrier wipes, Opsite waterproof film and Tegaderm dressings. You can either buy these over the counter in a pharmacy or get a prescription from your GP.
Drinking sensibly in moderation should cause you no problems. However, alcohol, especially spirits, can cause severe low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) even up to several hours after drinking. Following some simple guidelines can prevent any problems:
- Drink only in moderation.
- Always have something to eat before and after you have a drink and with your drinks. Eat longer-acting carbohydrates, like brown or seeded toast or chips.
- If you have more than two drinks, then you may need to temporarily reduce your long-acting (basal) insulin dose (or your basal rate if you use an insulin pump) during the night. Some people tend to ‘go low’ between breakfast and lunch the next day, so think about having a bigger breakfast, a lower dose of quick-acting insulin (the bolus) or a lower basal dose for that period.
- If you have more than one high-carbohydrate drink (e.g. cider, beer, rum, spirit with non-diet mixer, liqueurs or sugary cocktails) this may cause problems. These drinks tend to increase your blood glucose level immediately but because of the glucose-lowering effect of alcohol that kicks in later, you will still be at risk of a hypoglycaemic episode (a ‘hypo’) up to four hours later. It is better to avoid these drinks and instead have lower-carbohydrate alternatives.
- Remember to let anyone you’re with know that you have diabetes and always wear identification. Tell them what to do if you have a hypo.
Going out with friends
If you wear a pump, you may worry about telling your friends about it. Most people, however, are interested in what it is and how it works. As you become more used to your pump, you will get more confident and will work out the best way to tell other people about it.
If you have a special occasion coming up and you are worried about wearing your pump, or you are wearing clothes that make it difficult to conceal the pump, you may wish to remove the pump and have an injection of insulin to cover you for the evening. You can reconnect the pump when you return home. Discuss this with your insulin pump nurse who can help you work out the best plan.
Most problems with your pump have a solution. If you have any worries at all, discuss them with your diabetes care team. If you use your pump correctly, it will give you better blood glucose control and will allow you much more flexibility in your life and a more normal eating pattern. Of course, this can only be achieved through regular blood testing and making the necessary alterations to your insulin dose. Make it work for you!