Flying can be a stressful time for anyone, especially people with diabetes, and especially those with Type 1 Diabetes. Stress, exercise, food intake, calculating insulin doses and managing different time zones can all add to the challenges that people who have diabetes face when travelling. A recent article published by Andrew Cornish & Peter Chase of the University of Colorado, Denver [1] looked at the whole issue of navigating your way through airport security when you have an insulin pump and came up with some interesting finds. Ad mist all the technology that is available for people with diabetes, it is impossible to know the implications they have on the day to day activities that people with Type 1 diabetes face when travelling. For example another study has looked at the potential changes to insulin delivery due to increased air pressure when wearing an insulin pump when flying [2]

Issues seem to arise when going through a full body scanner wearing an insulin pump, that this in someway interferes with the mechanism of the pump delivery and continuous blood glucose monitors. It is suggested that people carry a letter from there doctor explaining this to airport security and asking for a full pat down instead of going through a scanner. If it is required that you must go through the body scanner, the pump may have to be removed. Guidelines from many of the pump manufacturers suggest that when an insulin pump or CGM device is passed through a full-body scanner, X-ray scanner, or other imaging equipment, there is a risk the motor may experience electromagnetic malfunctioning. Although evidence for same appears to be lacking, it is more than likely that companies are erring on the side of caution with their recommendations, which is good standard practice.

As well as the standard advice for people with Type 1 diabetes to follow when travelling, it is a good idea to consult with your diabetes team and manufacturer of your insulin pump, to find out the recommended advice and guidelines for dealing with airport security and your particular insulin pump, as some companies seem to vary on their recommendations. More research is needed in this area, but awareness of potential problems and preventing them is key. A letter of travel is essential and is available from your diabetes team, as well as monitoring blood sugars more frequently when travelling.


[1] Andrew Cornish and H. Peter Chase. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics. November 2012, 14(11): 984-985. doi:10.1089/dia.2012.0220

[2] King BR, Goss PW, Patterson MA, Crock PA, Anderson DG: Changes in altitude cause unintended insulin delivery from insulin pumps: mechanisms and implications. Diabetes Care 2011;34:1932–1933.


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