I am currently spending half my life on a plane, travelling up and down the Eastern seaboard giving talks at various conferences. You would think that I would have the security check thing down pat but I am always setting off the alarm or leaving something behind. Imagine if I had diabetes and I misplaced my insulin pump!
Thankfully you don’t have to disconnect your pump or your continuous glucose monitor to walk through an airport metal detector – they won’t trigger the alarm. Don’t be tempted to detach and put your pump or CGM through the x-ray machine as the x-ray can cause damage. Likewise, with body scanners, although you are only likely to encounter these if your travel overseas. Ideally you should avoid being scanned and ask for an alternative pat down screening procedure. It is a good idea to carry a letter on you stating that you have diabetes and that you are wearing an insulin pump and/or CGM, even if you are only flying inter-state.
There is some concern that the change in pressure as the plane takes off and lands can result in some of the air that is trapped in your insulin forming a bubble. A sudden decrease in pressure causes the bubble to expand so that ‘extra’ insulin is forced out of the reservoir and along the infusion set. It depends on how sensitive you are to insulin as to what effect this ‘extra’ insulin has on your blood glucose levels. I know lots of people who wear their pump all throughout their flights, but to be on the safe side you might like to consider disconnecting from your pump for take-off and landing. You should be safe to reconnect when the plane has reached cruising altitude or touched down. Check your line before you reconnect and give a small bolus (you can use the fill cannula option on your pump) to check you have a flow of insulin. And don’t forget to change your time and date setting if this has changed.
Written by Jane Overland