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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Weather or not   (December 20, 2009)

A major snowstorm just blew through the Northeast United States. Highways were closed, flights were cancelled, trains were delayed or stopped. And in Europe, there's snow in Germany, and travel in the Chunnel between continental Europe and England was suspended. It's still technically autumn, but winter is making an early appearance in the Northern Hemisphere.

Travel is always a bit risky, especially as delays can throw schedules out of sorts. For people with diabetes or other chronic health conditions, there are extra concerns: will appropriate foods be available? Will there be enough medicine packed to last for an unexpectedly long trip? Will the stresses screw up blood glucose levels?

After several years with diabetes, most folks probably become a bit complacent. For example, I no longer carry extra pump supplies or insulin and syringes on day-trips -- for better or worse, I assume my pump will work reliably.

But there's always the pessimistic possibility that something will go wrong: bad weather, a breakdown of the plane/train/automobile, or unexpected illness while away from home. With this in mind, I thought I'd remind folks of several concepts to mull over while safely stuck at home watching the wintry weather outside:

Traveling Medical Record

Anytime that you're traveling, it's a good idea to bring your own Traveling Medical Record with you. This would include copies of recent labs results, EKGs, X-rays, correspondence from one physician to another physician, immunization records, discharge summary from any recent hospitalizations, operation and pathology reports from any major surgery, and other important-looking stuff. Be sure to bring it with you when traveling out-of-town for more than a day; keep it in a carry-on suitcase or briefcase, not in a suitcase that might become separated from you.

Diabetes Disaster Preparedness

If a disaster hits your hometown, are you ready? Maybe a blizzard or an earthquake or a hurricane cuts off the power and you're stuck waiting several days before it's safe to leave your home. What preparations have you made? A list is available of medical and general supplies that you should plan to have available "just in case." Not just extra supplies of medications, but other things you might not have thought of: food, pencil and paper, extra batteries, and more.

The CDC also has a Web page about Diabetes Care During Natural Disasters, Emergencies, and Hazards.

Other Hints

* Read the information available on the Internet about traveling with diabetes.
* To find a diabetes physician in a town you're visiting: Call the nearest hospital, and ask the diabetes nurse to recommend one.
* Take spare prescriptions for all your pills.
* Bring the flattened boxes from your actual prescriptions, as it has the name of the pharmacy that dispensed them and other important information.
* Take other medications that you might need, even if you don't usually use them (such as aspirin or other pain relievers).


When the weather improves (and it will!), plan to go slowly and safely to your destination, be sure to bore your friends and family with your tales about your horrible travel experiences (and listen to theirs!), and then enjoy the holidays.

Here's my best wishes for a happy, safe, and healthy holiday season!

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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