Air travel and insulin pumps

Due to the way pumps are engineered, there is potentially an electromagnetic malfunctioning risk – i.e. if you pass through an airport security scanner there’s a chance it will affect the functioning of your pump. There is not evidence either way on this. You’ll only know if it starts going squiffy on you.

Then there’s the possible effects of hypobaric pressure conditions on insulin delivery – does cabin pressure affect the accuracy of insulin delivery from pumps? Again, there seems to be an insufficient body of proof to sway things either way but if it does, then it seems that cabin pressure would mean a slightly increased delivery of insulin. If you’ve done air travel and not come a cropper, than chances are you have not been significantly affected. Short trips will have little or no impact, but you might want to watch out on longer ones – and by ‘watch out’, it just means “keep testing”. changes in insulin delivery may be more critical for younger children who maybe more sensitive to insulin.

Airport Security
In their report, Navigating Airport Security with an Insulin Pump and/or Sensor, doctors Andrew Cornish, B.A., and H. Peter Chase, M.D. (as published in Diabetes Technologies and Therapeutics) noted, “New technologies are constantly being developed for diabetes management. With all of the changes a person makes with airplane travel (including food intake, stress, and exercise), along with the potential for technological difficulties, more frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose levels remains highly recommended.”

And they conclude, It is probable that on any given day, large numbers of travelers subject their insulin pumps and/or CGM devices to X-ray and full-body machines, and some may unknowingly experience mild (or worse) malfunctioning as a result. More research is needed to better evaluate the frequency of problems and the type of problems most likely (e.g., increased vs. decreased insulin delivery from an insulin pump).

Steps to take:
o Carry a doctors note with you about being on a pump and treated by insulin. Ask for a ‘pat down’ rather than to put you and your equipment through the body scanner.
o Unhook your pump and walk through the body scanners leaving your pump to go through the X-ray machine (X-ray not being damaging, whereas the electro-magnetic body scanners might be).
o Blood test often.

Enjoy your flight!

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