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Adjusting Your Insulin and Diabetes Medications to Changes in Time Zones

Matthew Rusk, M.D.

If you take diabetes medications and you're flying across multiple time zones, you may need to adjust your doses. The best advice is to ask your doctor for help and keep in mind the following points.

If you use insulin injections:

If You Use an Insulin Pump:

Make sure to bring extra batteries and supplies. In case of equipment failure, it is also a good idea to bring a supply of syringes and a long-acting insulin such as Ultralente. Patients should receive detailed instructions from their doctors about dosing of long acting insulin should this happen. In general, insulin pumps do not set off airport metal detectors and are safe to use while in flight.

If You Take Oral Diabetes Medications (diabetes pills):

This situation is considerably more straightforward. In general, medications should be taken according to the local time schedule. It is also extremely important to keep regular meals according to the local time. Allowing the blood sugar to run high in this situation is also safer than risking hypoglycemia. While many diabetics on oral medications do not monitor their blood sugars, it is generally more important to do so while traveling since the sugar will be harder to control.

3 Benson E, Metz R. Management of diabetes during intercontinental travel. Bull Mason Clin 1984-85; 38 (winter): 145-51.