And making a go of it!
By Deepak Bhatia
Life is a journey and we are all travelers here in this world – just passing through. We come with nothing, and so shall we leave – with nothing. On the way we pick up possessions, all of which will be left behind. But some things which we pick up stay with us throughout our lives. Sad though it is, diabetes is one of them. A progressive and debilitating disease, it can be controlled but, once it appears, it can seldom or hardly ever be completely eliminated from the human body. This is part of our baggage, an albatross around our neck, to be carried with us and within us till the end of our journey.
But all is not lost if one becomes diabetic. Many known diabetics continue to lead full and active lives as before. Celebrities and public figures in this category include the cricketer Wasim Akram, and the TV presenter Gaurav Kapoor.
Precautions for diabetics
While we travel, we can take certain precautions and implement some measures to make life easier. Dieticians generally advise diabetics to follow the thumb rule – no fasting and no feasting! Diabetics should eat regular, wholesome food and on time in order to avoid unpleasant consequences like lows (hypoglycaemia) and highs (hyperglycaemia) of blood sugar levels.
A good, tried and tested subterfuge useful for diabetics, who would like to avoid feasting at celebration functions like marriages and receptions, is to pretend that they are going in for a meal if they should meet the host or hostess who would exhort them to please have lunch or dinner. And they can pretend to be returning after the meal if they should encounter the host or hostess when moving away from the dining area! They can have their staple and restricted diet either before leaving home or after returning home.
Another principle diabetics would do well to follow is to take their medicines in proper doses and at scheduled times. As a good doctor was heard counselling his patients, “a patient of diabetes should eat food like medicine and medicine like food!”
When we are at home, in our familiar environment in-take of food and medicines can be kept under control. This may not be possible all the time while travelling. Some planning and scheduling can help to alleviate suffering and avoid emergent situations.
“Sugar Free” sweets for diabetics are now available at many retail shops, supermarkets and other outlets. No need to be left out or feel guilty – enjoy yourselves; there is hardly any difference in taste from the “real” thing.
‘Sugar Free’, ‘Spenda’, ‘Equal’, and others are brand names for artificial sweeteners. They can be either based on aspertame or sucralose or stevia. There are contradictory reports about their being safe or otherwise. As they say, the jury is still out on that one !
Types of diabetes
The recommended diet for people with diabetes is not very different from the healthy diet recommended for everyone, so one should be able to choose items from the general menus while away from home.
Special footcare during travel
Diabetes affects other parts of the body, in addition to the pancreas, as it progresses: eyes, heart, kidneys, feet, etc. Feet are very important while and for travelling. It stands to reason that diabetics must take special care of their feet. For a diabetic, any injury takes a long time to heal. Injury to the feet can have serious consequences.
The Diabetic Foot syndrome is a name given to a condition that is caused by “diabetes, neuropathy, neuropathic osteoarthropathy, peripheral artery disease and foot ulcer or infection. Loss of sensation due to neuropathy makes it difficult for people to notice wounds. As the person does not have any pain, minor injuries may remain undiscovered for a long while. Furthermore, there is delay in getting medical help because of the myth that if there is no pain then it is only a minor problem. Hence most wounds and infections may go unattended. If you don’t check regularly, a minor cut easily become infected.”
Diabetics can and should wear good and proper footwear to protect their feet and prevent injury. Chappals, sandals and shoes are all available easily for diabetics. They can be made to order also, for those with special needs or preferences.
Attention and care during travel
While travelling, diabetics need to pay attention to the following important aspects:
Medicines: Remember to pack your tablets, capsules, injection kit as well as your home blood sugar monitoring kit.
Keep sufficient stock to last till after your journey. Prepare two small caches; keep one each in two different pieces of luggage, in case you may forget or lose one cache.
Food: Keep ready at all times ready-to-eat items like water, biscuits, fruit, etc which are easily available. Avoid both over-indulgence and total abstinence. Eating only fruit or in excess may cause blood sugar level to rise.
Attire: Wear and carry proper shoes and clothes to prevent injury.
Others: It is advisable to avoid over-exertion, unusual activities, unfamiliar territory, as far as possible.
Support from family members: A diabetic can ask someone to cross-check with a prescription that all medicines required and in adequate quantities have been packed in the travel (medical) kit. To make doubly sure, two such kits can be prepared, one each to be stowed away in the luggage of the patient and his or her companion.
Diabetes and Travel
10 tips for a safe trip
Keep your medical supplies close at hand
Try to stick to your routine
Obtain and carry documentation
Inform airport security you have diabetes
Always be prepared to treat low glucose
Investigate the food you eat
Carry more than your usual requirement of medicines
Consider time zone changes, in case you are travelling over long distances
Remember to test your blood sugar regularly
Let others be aware that you have diabetes, in case you need help.