The X-ray security scanners at airports can damage the devices used by diabetics to control their condition, such as continuous glucose monitors or insulin pumps.Do not miss the trip, but it is advisable to take measures to protect its functioning and the health of travelers with diabetes.
If you are diabetic and plan to travel by plane for vacations or for work reasons, you should be alert if you use an insulin pump , or a continuous glucose monitor. When you pass through the security zone of the airport, both your body and your hand luggage will be exposed to the X-rays produced by the scanners that check travelers and luggage. According to an editorial published in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics , exposure to X-rays can cause these devices (so necessary to control your condition) not work well.
The report recommends that travelers with diabetes obtain a letter from their doctor that specifies the diagnosis and supplies that the person needs to take with them in the cabin of the plane. It should also determine if the person needs to use an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitor, emphasizing that these devices should not go through the scanners and x-rays of the security controls, and that they should be checked manually.
The editorial also mentions the models of insulin pumps that can be affected the most. In general, any insulin pump that uses what is known as direct current motor technology, can be damaged when exposed to X-rays. Among those that use this type of technology are the pumps of the brands: Medtronic , Animas and Tandem. Diabetes Care .
Specialists recommend that if the person must go through the full-body scanner for travelers and has a t- type insulin pump : Slim ( Touch Simplicity ), or Tandem , to remove it since they should not be exposed to lightning either of the devices that check the luggage.
Currently, the only insulin pump approved by the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration of the United States) that does not use DC technology is the OmniPod (from Insulet). This is the only one that uses random cabling technology with shape memory and that according to the manufacturer, can pass through the safety devices without suffering mishaps (so it can continue to work well).
The Medtronic company , for its part, recommends preventing its continuous glucose monitor from being exposed to X-rays, although it does not run any risk if it goes through a metal detector.
The pressure inside the cabin is another important factor
The increase in pressure inside the cabin can cause the insulin pump to provide a little more insulin than usual. In adolescents and adults, this slight increase does not cause a problem because it is not so big as to make a big difference in blood glucose levels. However, in the case of children who require small amounts of insulin, the additional amount can cause a decrease in the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood known as hypoglycemia . Parents should be alert about this possibility and should monitor the child carefully during the trip to detect an unexpected decrease ( low blood glucose ).
On the other hand, the sensitivity of continuous glucose monitors can also be affected by changes in air pressure inside the cabin, which can cause lower readings.
Other tips if you go on a trip
1. The transfer to another city or country will change your usual routine. Measure your glucose more often, since changes in activities and schedules can affect your blood sugar levels.
2. Make sure you take the medications you take daily, and in greater quantity (double) in case there are delays in the trip. If it is a long trip, you must take into account the schedule changes to know exactly when to take them.
3 . If you use insulin , carry an emergency case. And keep it at low temperature in an insulated bag with cold gel packs.
4. Bring a snack in your bag, or glucose tablets, in case your blood sugar (sugar) drops.
5 . Do not forget to have your health insurance card handy, and your doctor’s name and phone number in case of an emergency, as well as a medical ID that says you have diabetes.
6. Put all medications in your carry-on luggage and snack in your seat, for easy access to them. Do not store them in the upper compartments of the plane.
7. Get up and walk every hour, or every two hours, to decrease the risk of developing blood clots in your legs.
8. Save the syringes and other devices to inject insulin in its original container and make sure they have the pharmaceutical label that identifies them as medicines.
9. If meals are served during the flight, request in advance food for diabetics, low in fat and cholesterol. If they are not served, pack healthy and nutritious foods.
10. When you are at your destination, do not interrupt your physical activity routine. Try to do some activity, even if it is in independent sections of 10 minutes, but accumulate a total of two and a half hours a week.
You must take care of your diabetes control wherever you are and to do it you need your devices to work properly. Protect them from anything that might affect them, including airport X-rays. Good trip!