When Moira McCarthy’s daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6, one of the first things Moira (an outdoor enthusiast) said to the endocrinologist was, “Oh no, we can’t go on our trips anymore!” Before her daughter’s diagnosis, Moira and her family frequently went skiing, hiking, and camping, and she was worried those types of excursions would have to end. But the doctor said, “You can still do these things — you’ll just develop a new normal.” How right he was.
Kids with type 1 diabetes can still go on outdoor adventures…with a little extra prep beforehand. Here, McCarthy shares 9 key mom-to-mom tips.
1. Bring More of Everything!
McCarthy says that when it comes to diabetes supplies, she always packs two to three times what she thinks she needs. “You’re way better off lugging extra stuff than not having enough or having insulin go bad and not having a backup,” she says.
2. If You Fly, Carry On
McCarthy also doesn’t pack diabetes supplies in checked luggage. “It can get really, really cold in the baggage cabin, and that may affect the insulin or other supplies. Plus, if your luggage gets lost, you’re up a creek!” She recalls when she and her daughter spent almost two days in an airport during a blizzard. Luckily, they had her diabetes supplies with them, so they were able to manage.
3. Don’t Stress About Security
Many moms are worried about getting diabetes supplies through security, but McCarthy says she’s never encountered a problem. To be safe, she suggests getting a letter from your healthcare provider and bring it to the airport.
4. Keep Easy-to-Access Carbs on Hand
Make sure your child has some easy-to-access carbs in case their blood sugar gets low. McCarthy always makes sure her daughter has glucose tablets or even Skittles® in her pocket at the ready. “That way, if her blood sugar is getting low, it can be treated quickly.”
5. Bag It
When going camping, McCarthy stores supplies in a waterproof, insulated bag to keep them cool. Heat can damage insulin. Be sure to talk with your healthcare team and read the information that comes with the insulin packaging for specific storage guidelines.
6. Ask for Support
Get help from your child’s healthcare team. “Ask your diabetes team to help you develop a plan for the entire time you are gone,” she says. “They probably have had another patient go on a similar vacation, so can offer some great pointers.”
7. Pack Snacks
Before you head outdoors, pack snacks that have lots of carbohydrates, such as juice boxes or dried fruit to balance the added physical activity.
8. Check Blood Sugar More Frequently
Any time your child’s eating or activity schedule varies, it’s important to check glucose more often and treat it accordingly. McCarthy makes sure to do so, especially during active family trips.
9. Consider a Test Run
Before taking off on a faraway excursion, you might want to do a dry run first, suggests McCarthy. “When I took my daughter skiing for the first time after her diagnosis, she and I drove to a nearby resort for two days.” That way, you’ll be able to work out any kinks close to home before embarking on a major adventure.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
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