High Blood Glucose while Flying

Does anyone besides myself have problems flying?
As soon as I get in the air my blood sugar trys to reach the same altitude as the plane.
After I land it takes another day sometimes two to get my glucose readings back under control.
I am still a newbie (2 weeks) on the Pump. I am hoping that the pump may help with this issue.
Thanks for any replys.

I find that when I am flying my blood sugar actually goes low. And it always happens at the worst time, take off and landings. I always make sure I have juice and water in the seat pocket and I tell the flight attendants why and I have never had any problem with that before.

Susie: Do eat any food at the airport before getting on the plane? I had that problem a couple of years ago, then I saw a piece by Peter Greenberg (Today show contributor) on airport food. He founds that most of the sandwiches and other foods purchased at the airport are deceptively high in calories because of the sprays that are often used to insure freshness. Once I heard that and increased my bolus for “hidden carbs”, I was quickly able to get BG under control when I fly.
I also always keep my glucose tablets with me and close at hand (though once the powder from them caused Homeland Security to think that I had traces of explosive powders in my bag).
Typically, though, I try to fly a little on the high side. Being cooped up on the plane and anticipating the stress and extra exercise involved in toting all of the carry-ons and other baggage from place to place (ever noticed that whatever flight you are on is the one at the last gate at the end of the concourse?) has had a tendency to make me go low, so I try to be prepared for that. I’m generally able to get back down within a couple of hours after my planned “high period”.

Jonathan, Thanks I am flying in a few weeks with my wife for our honeymoon (first time since I was diagnosed). I appreciate those tips. I bought all kinds of stuff to pack supplies and have my note from the endo. I have a feeling I will be nervous the first time and after that it will be old hat.

Ron: Good luck. It will be special. One of the things that I do when travelling with checked bags – I over-pack my supplies and have enough “equipment” in multiple places for my carry-on to get lost and multiple checked bags to get lost. Can’t be too over-protected/over-packed these days.

I am actually waiting on the freebie ultra mini from One touch so I will have a second meter. Just from reading here and on Dlife I am bringing 2 weeks worth of pen needles lancets and 1 additional novolog pen and 1 additional levemir pen. Also after hearing so many nightmare stories I am going to have it all in a carry on that will fit under the seat in front of me!!!

Thanks for the ideas about the hidden carbs. Usually, I do not eat before I fly but when I go by train which I love, I still have had issues with high blood glucose. I think I understand why now. Hidden carbs. I have done shots for years but I am new to the pump. How did you learn to compensate for the hidden carbs? Is this something my trainer till teach me?

I’ve only flown several times since being diagnosed, & my BG was low. They weren’t particularly long flights. Changing time zones & long flights are a different story. Haven’t experienced this yet.

I carry on all supplies with me & won’t put anything in the overhead compartment. I want my stuff easily gotten to.

Don’t put extra insulin in checked bags. The x-rays can destroy your insulin, not to mention the temp changes.

Your raise in blood sugar may be stress induced. How comfortable are you with flying? I recently took a ride with my teen driver. At one point my Dexcom was around 140 and five minutes later my bg shot up to 220.

I do think that perhaps the airplane issues are stress indused.
However, I am always happy when I get to go by train. My blood sugar always seems to elevate there as well. Ron in an earlier comment told me about hidden carbs via sprays that are used to keep the food, fresh longer. I am wondering if that is what they do on the trains as well. Last summer my ten year old Granddaughter saved my life on the train as I was going into a coma from an extreme high. I was unaware of what was happening. I do a lot of summer travel with my Grandchildren and now I will be aware of it. I am just curious to learn more about a bolus for the hidden carbs? I always eat in the diner car and it takes us three days to go by train. I also need to learn what to do when I am stress indused. Like I said earlier I, have used insulin via the shot method for over twenty plus years and the pump for two weeks. I love my pump but I have much to learn.

I’ve never heard the issue about x-rays destroying the insulin (and have not had problems with insulin that went in checked baggage). Is there any scientific information on the issue? I would love to learn more.

I’ve done a number of long flights and multiple time zone changes. My endo said the best thing to do was to get up and walk around on the plane periodically and to change the time on my pump during the overnight period in the time zone where the trip started, though careful monitoring is needed in the first 24-36 hours after the time zone change because the body is adjusting.

There is no way to know the extent of the hidden carbs – most of the food does not come with any kind of nutrition labelling. I usually increase the apparent carb content by at least 50% and that works. I don’t know about train food, but I use the same rule (extra 50%) for any sandwich I get on the NY/DC train, and that seems to work ok. As a general rule, the best thing for PWDs is to bring our own food whenever possible.


I have been warned by my Endo to not allow my insulin to go through the x-ray machine. She says it breaks it down and it will not have the same effect. I was also told to adjust for time zones but I was told that as I go through so many and so rapidly - to get home to adjust when I arrive. Unless, I am on the train which is much slower. Thanks for the info on adjusting for hidden carbs.

There’s info out there about the effects of X-rays on insulin. You can also call the pharm company that makes your insulin & ask them. X-rays can cause insulin to degrade & it also depends on how many times the same insulin is exposed to the radiation.

The X-rays used for checked baggage is higher than for carry-ons. Also bigger temp fluctations for checked baggage.

I ask that my insulin be hand inspected as soon as I get to the security checkpoint. X-rays aren’t supposed to harm meters or strips.

Suzie thanks for this question!!!
Jonathan Thanks for mentioning the hidden carbs!!!
Gerri Thanks for mentioning the X-Ray and insulin!!! I will ask my endo today about that and anything else I may not have accounted for. Silly me vacation is suppose to be relaxing just lots to think about before I arrive there…

Do you have one of those cooler wallets to keep your insulin in? Frio is a great one.

Have a fabulous time!

I feel like I own a bunch of different items now.
In doing my reading it says to bring more than you need for double the length of the trip.
I also have a letter from my endo on stationary from his practice stating that I have diabetes and need to bring diabetic supplies with me.
I bought before the trip I bought a Dia-Pak Daymate and an Medport pen wallet.
I also bought a Dia-Pak Deluxe and the Frio Duo.
I figure the Medport wallet and Dia-Pak daymate will keep the 2 pens I have in use.
The Dia-Pak deluxe will hold all my strips, lancets, glucose tablets, pen needles, alcohol swabs, and misc stuff
The Frio will keep the extra pens (1 spare Novolog 1 spare Levemir)
I also read that I should get spare batteries for my meter and a backup meter (I was debating the one touch mini) Should I???
Oh yeah and I have my thyroid pill as well.
I did not get a medic alert or diabetic bracelet or something that identifies me other than my lovely wife.
Did I leave anything out???

Wow, you are prepared!

Batteries last a long time, but guess it wouldn’t hurt to have extras. I’ve never brought a spare meter along, but it’s a good idea to have more than one anyway & that it uses the same strips. I keep a spare on my bedside table for middle of the night lows so I don’t have to stumble downstairs to get my meter.

I travel with jellybeans because they take up less space & are a lot cheaper than the glucose tablets. . One jellybean has 1 gr of carbs–pure sugar & works fast. For most people that raises BG 10 pts.

Airport security are used to people requesting that their insulin not go through X-rays.

Just don’t forget the lovely wife for ID purposes:)

I was going to say stress… flying these days has stopped being a fun thing and turned into a big stressor…