3 Best Tips for Safer Driving When You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, here’s what you need to know for safer road trips. Experts say it’s important to understand your symptoms, plan ahead and keep food easily accessible in your car.
By: Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs
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If you’re diabetic, you don’t have to drive too far to run into problems. Even a short road trip can quickly turn dangerous if your blood sugar drops too low.
During an episode of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, you can experience anxiety, shakiness or blurred vision — all of which can make driving difficult and unsafe. If symptoms are severe, you might even pass out, endangering yourself and others on the road.
But planning ahead with these three tips can help ensure that you arrive at your destination safely, no matter how far you have to travel.
Symptoms of low blood sugar are different for each person. Over time, most people with diabetes learn to recognize the signs that tell them their blood sugar is low.
It’s not only important to recognize your symptoms, but you also must react quickly.
As soon as you become aware of your warning symptoms, you need to pull over and test your blood sugar if possible, but even more importantly, consume simple carbohydrates to bring your blood sugar back up. Some options include: hard candy, glucose tablets or glucose gel.
Most people with diabetes carry a snack or candy in a purse, wallet or backpack. But it’s important to keep snack items in your car at all times so you always have easy access when you’re traveling.
Make sure whatever you carry in the car is non-perishable easily accessible. Trail mix, granola bars or crackers are good choices.
When traveling a longer distance, keep a supply kit packed for the trip close to your seat in the car.
Packing a cooler is a great way to store more substantial, healthy snacks like sandwiches, wraps or fruit. Also remember to pack some protein, which will make you feel fuller and help you avoid blood sugar fluctuations over time.
If you take insulin, also store it in an insulated container when you travel.
If you are on a long trip, it’s important to leave enough time so you can take plenty of breaks.
Stop every few hours to test your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar ranges between 70 mg/dl and 90 mg/dl early on, it’s a good idea to eat some extra carbohydrates to prevent it from dropping during the trip.
Taking breaks is also important to help keep your blood flowing. Diabetes sometimes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the feet and legs, so it’s a good idea to stop every couple of hours to walk and stretch to stimulate blood flow in your lower extremities.
Travelling poses some challenges for people who have diabetes, but a little advance planning will make you safer when you leave home.
Packing snacks and leaving enough time for breaks along the way can put you in control of your diabetes on the road. Remember to watch for signs of trouble and react quickly when you notice them. This will help your trips go safely and smoothly.