Travelling on vacation involves a change of routine. While this might seem stressful, hopefully careful planning can help reduce the amount of stress allowing you to enjoy your vacation. Below are some tips on how to protect your cortisol pump while travelling on vacation.
Tips on Packing
When on vacation with your cortisol pump you will want to pack not only your essential pump supplies, but also plenty of extra supplies and medication (don’t forget extra batteries). Pack so that you are prepared in case you were to have an adrenal crisis, or that you would have enough Solu-Cortef, reservoirs and insets to last you in case you were ill during the trip and needed stress dosing.
Also be sure to bring your back up cortisol replacement method, whether that be injections or oral steroid. Know your back up strategy and how you would be dosing if it were to become necessary. It is recommended that you have a written record of all of your basal profiles, this includes your normal basal with any additional sick profiles.
You will also need your medical ID bracelet and emergency injection with you, just as you do every single day.
Checking a Suitcase
You are able to check a suitcase, but you must be strategic about what you place in that suitcase. All medication and medical supplies should be in your carry-on bag. Never place medication or medical supplies in your checked bag. If you think that you have too much medicine to carry on and that it will exceed your baggage limit, medicine does not count as one of your two carry on bags.
You can carry on an unlimited amount of medicine.
Sometimes the over head bins are full, and flight attendants may encourage you to check your carry on. You must let them know that your carry on contains life sustaining medicine and equipment and must remain with you at all times. Checking your bag full of medicine is never an option.
ALL MEDICATIONS AND MEDICAL SUPPLIES SHOULD BE IN YOUR CARRY-ON BAG. DO NOT PUT MEDICATIONS OR SUPPLIES IN YOUR CHECKED BAGGAGE EVER.
TSA and flight attendants generally will not question your medical supplies. Even needles are okay to fly. However, some pumpers prefer to have a note from their doctor declaring their medical condition, their use of the pump, and need for extra medication and equipment. This is not necessary for domestic travel within the USA, but can be beneficial while traveling internationally.
Loaner Pumps for Vacation
Loaner pumps are an option for travel as well. This program usually entails having a new or refurbished pump sent to you prior to your trip. The loaner pump would be the back up plan in case your pump fails for some reason while you are away.
Be sure you have all basal rate patterns written down in case you were required to switch to your loaner pump. Your loaner pump will have none of your information saved.
Usually the loaner is not billed to you unless you open it. Fees and program details vary by manufacturer and you should call your pump’s customer service number for details. Here is the information for Medtronic’s. For OmniPod, chat with your local rep. Tandem also recommends that you contact them in order to secure a loaner.
Your cortisol pump will be tested for explosives out of an abundance of caution. This is TSA logic.
OmniPods can safely pass through an x-ray or body scanner. You should inform TSA that you’re wearing an insulin pump. More than likely, they will swab you for explosive residue. This will involve you touching the pod on your body with your hands. Your hands will be swabbed, and the swab is tested for explosives. Since your pod is not explosive, this is a fairly quick and easy process. The light turns green, and then you’re free to go put your shoes back on.
PDMs should not go through the body scanner. They can be safely x-rayed with the rest of your belongings.
Both tandem and Medtronic pumps can go through the metal detector but should not pass through x-ray or body scanner. If you have a back-up pump with you, take it out and keep it in your hand. You will need to explain that it isn’t x-ray safe, and TSA will then test it for explosive residue. This will involve you touching the pump with your hands. Your hands will be swabbed, and the swab is tested for explosives. Since your pump is not explosive, this is a fairly quick and easy process.
Time zones do not need to be tricky with your cortisol pump if you keep these tips in mind.
One or Two Hour Time Zone Jumps
For short flights when only one two time zones are crossed, its fairly simple to change the time on your pump. If you are traveling during the day towards the east, where you are advancing in time, you will want to wait until you have arrived at your destination to change the time on your pump. This ensures you have more time at your earlier, higher rates, and you aren’t shorted any necessary cortisol.
Still confused on when to change your cortisol pump to your current time zone? Change it so that you will get the most medicine, knowing that rates are higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon. Don’t short yourself and risk a medical emergency.
If you are traveling west, where the time is set back, you will want to change the time on your pump before departure. This way you don’t arrive more tired, with your body on rates designed for later in the day at your starting location.
Significant Time Zone Jumps (Across the World)
No one sleeps well on international flights. From personal experience, the best course of action is to set your pump rates on “super sick rates” (elevated basal dose, pretty flat pattern) for the entire duration of the flight and the surrounding transportation to and from the airport. Once you arrive safely at your hotel, change to the current time zone but remain on elevated rates.
If you plan your time changes correctly, you will not experience “jet lag” like non adrenal insufficent people do. One perk to pumping is that you do not have an “internal clock” that may take days to adjust like non adrenal insufficent people. Our cortisol pumps can be adjusted instantly. There are some advantages to being “part machine”.
Longman, J. (2019, August 29). IPX Ratings Explained. Retrieved from https://www.audioreputation.com/ipx-ratings-explained/.
MiniMed™ 630G Insulin Pump System. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/products/minimed-630g-insulin-pump-system.
Summer-Friendly Tandem Pump Features. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tandemdiabetes.com/blog/post/general/2017/07/13/summer-friendly-tandem-pump-features.