When Sickness Strikes While Traveling with Diabetes

Posted by sean on Tue, 01/08/2013 - 18:01 in


Check out Sean talk about how he deals with being sick with diabetes while on an expedition and his preparations for the
unpredictable weather in New Zealand.

Not all expeditions are created equal - there are different stressors that affect my body and my diabetes for various reasons and sometimes it becomes too much to bear. The reality is that sometimes sickness strikes when I least expect it.

Traveling and being sick is not a fun combination, especially when you have diabetes. But it’s happened to me multiple times. I had a throat infection while in New Zealand and I was on antibiotics…I’ve had food poisoning in the Cook Islands…and sometimes it’s not even me — I had a client who got pink eye on a backcountry trip in New Zealand a few summers ago. My number one concern in all of these situations? Keeping my diabetes in check and making sure I’m keeping my entire crew safe. (My Wilderness First Aid certification and my backcountry Adventure Medical Kit really help in these instances, too.)

My travel companions always know that if something goes wrong with me in a foreign place, I most likely need to get to a hospital—at least to get the proper medication. To pre-plan (as always), I see my doctor before trips and get special permission to carry antibiotics with me, as well as other over-the-counter medications for various symptoms.

But, sometimes going to the hospital in a foreign place is unavoidable. Of course, the benefit of going to the hospital somewhere like the Cook Islands is that the entire overnight hospital stay plus fluids and medication only cost me $100 (no insurance needed!).

Financial benefits aside, I always take notes before leaving on a trip about where the nearest medical facilities are, should I need them. Also, one of my sponsors is SatellitePhone.com and with their help I have a satellite phone on all my expeditions so I’m able to call for help from wherever I am. This component is huge and provides a comfort to me and everyone I’m traveling with.

In summary, know your resources when you take a trip and you have diabetes. Know what medications you have in your personal medical kit and know where to go if something goes wrong. Even if you don’t have a cell phone while traveling, having a phone number for a doctor’s office in the town you’re staying is a big help.