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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

(Originally published April 30, 2015)

Survival Guide to Traveling with Diabetes

Summer vacation travel season is coming up soon. As you plan your dream trip, it would be wise to bring some of your medical records with you. Many people with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes have their medical records scattered in different offices: general medical care here, diabetes records there, hospital reports somewhere else. Since you never can predict which of these records might be important to help with your care during a trip away from home, I'd suggest that you keep a consolidated condensed version of all this information with you whenever you're traveling. I call this collection a Traveling Medical Record. Here's how to create your TMR:

  1. Contact your personal physician, and show him/her this page.
  2. Ask the staff to give you copies of the following pages from your chart:
    • Any recent lab results (within the past six months or so)
    • The most recent copy of:
      • A1C
      • CBC, Chemistry Profile, Lipid Profile lab results
      • EKG
      • Chest X-ray, other X-rays, CT scans, MRIs
      • urinalysis and urine protein results
    • Any correspondence from one physician to another physician (for example, a report from an opthalmologist to your primary physician about your eyes)
    • Immunization records
    • The "Discharge Summary" from any hospitalizations within the last few years
    • Operation and Pathology reports from any major surgery
    • Other relevant items
  3. Bring your Traveling Medical Record with you to every specialist that you see. Show it to them, invite them to make a copy of any page that they need for their files, and indicate that you want a copy of "important stuff" from your medical record at the specialist's office, to add to your TMR.
  4. Be prepared to sign medical release forms authorizing the doctor's office to give you copies of the reports. It is usually legally required that the records must be made available to you, but it may be the doctor's office's policy to ask you to sign a release form.
  5. Keep your TMR in a heavy-duty cardboard folder that can be tied or snapped shut. Be sure to have your name, date of birth, home address, phone numbers, and other vital data easily visible on the outside of the folder. Also, leave room on the outside to indicate the address of where you'll be staying during your next trip.

    If you like to list things on a form, there's an example of a TMR at Example of a concise "Traveling Medical Record" Format . It's from the Pediatric Care Center of the University of Washington Medical Center; it's no longer available at their website, but it's still available at the Wayback Machine.

Finally, here are some other travel hints that aren't frequently mentioned:

  • Read the handouts from the diabetes manufacturers about traveling with diabetes.
  • To find a diabetes doc in a town you're visiting: Call the nearest hospital, and ask the diabetes nurse educator to recommend one.
  • Take spare prescriptions for all your pills.
  • Take diabetes-related medications that you might need, even if you don't usually use them.
  • Always bring your Traveling Medical Record with you when traveling out-of-town for more than a day. Keep it in a carry-on item that you'll keep with you all the time, such as a handbag, laptop bag, or backpack - not in a suitcase that might become separated from you.
  • If you will be flying, check the TSA's website for their diabetes advice at Disabilities and Medical Conditions.
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This page was new at D-is-for-Diabetes February 5, 2019

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