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Flight Risk.

I’m not a fan of traveling by air (major understatement) and my flight-related anxiety has ebbed and flowed over the last few years.  Actually, it’s been way more flow than ebb, because traveling by plane has a direct and predictable influence on my blood sugars, in that the anxiety of air travel causes my blood sugar to rise with the plane.

What amazes me is that even with a 200% basal increase and a conservative correction while I watched the double-up arrows on my Dexcom graph, my blood sugars still went berserk.  (Thankfully, the Dexcom showed me up in the 300′s, while my meter only had me in the 230′s.  But still.  And yes, I know I need to calibrate.  You can also see where my connection flight took off, riiiiiight there at the 3.30 am-ish mark.)

Even though I know emotions are on the long list of variables, it still amazes me how something as intangible as stress can be as powerful as food or insulin when it comes to tangling up my blood sugars.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. beth #

    Sometimes i think my dream diabetes tool would be something that measured how stressed i was so i could “count” it better and adjust…..

    09/23/13; 8:52 am
  2. Walter #

    Ok, this is freaking bizarre. Once again I thought I was the only one experiencing certain diabetic blips. My BGs pretty much stay high when I travel. The whole trip. No matter what I do. Greatly restricts vacations and business travel. I guess I’m lucky neither comes up very often (lucky?). In 94 drove to a trade show. Went from Jackson, MS (my home) to Atlanta. Not a big trip but my BGs were ion the 300 range almost the entire trip. Not any higher but not much lower either. Felt like a weight was on my head the entire trip (my diabetes friend?). Within two hour of getting home BGS back in the 100s range. Has anybody ever done any research on this? Is it common to T1Ds? Of course back then my treatment options were limited to Humulin N and R. But even with Humalog and Lantus my travel highs don’t really budge.

    09/23/13; 11:36 am
    • Taylor #

      I always blamed the vacation high blood sugars on the x ray scanners affecting my insulin. I go bezerk at the airport and I don’t let any of my diabetes supplies pass through any X ray or scanner…but I still wind up with high blood sugars on vacation. It helps me to feel like I have control over as much as possible…and the rest I just roll with!

      09/24/13; 1:07 am
  3. I don’t know if any research on this has been done but I could also be a test subject. I am a very calm flyer though so I find it interesting that my bgs go high and stay high even though I don’t think it is stress-related. Maybe I am more stressed out than I know? Or is there sugar in the recirculated air? Do pressurized cabins make synthetic insulin less effective? Traveling can be tiring enough without energy-sapping high bgs; it’s one of those mysteries that is very annoying.

    09/23/13; 12:58 pm
  4. Allison #

    I’m sorry you deal with the travel highs, too, but I’m glad I’m not alone. I’m a former corporate pilot (found out I was Type 1 after being a pilot for four years), but any time I commercial airline anywhere I hit the 300′s like it’s nothing. My distaste for TSA and cattle car flying seem to fuel my numbers, since flying itself doesn’t worry me.

    09/23/13; 2:34 pm
  5. Laddie #

    My problem is that I think I’m going to go high because of the inactivity, so I increase basals and boluses. Then I end up going low. I’m not too stressed by fear because I determined a long time ago that the life I want to lead requires flying. But I’m at a different stage of life than you are and don’t have a young Birdie at home.

    It is amazing to see the G4 track your stress.

    09/23/13; 6:52 pm
  6. Taylor #

    I appreciate your yellow lines on your dexcom. I just had a normal workday today- even took a walk when I got home- and my dex bounced in and out and wayyy into the yellow zone. Even though you have something to blame for the yellow, still helps me realize I’m not alone to see your graphs too (mine is much worse today)…there’s always tomorrow!

    09/24/13; 1:10 am
  7. It is crazy how the body reacts to different situations/scenarios. The correlation in the article is just amazing.

    09/24/13; 12:26 pm
  8. I find I have the same kind of increases when I drive for long periods of time. Just happened this weekend, as I was driving to my parents’ home, a 3 hour trip. Went up and stayed stuck around 200 for hours. Stress really does sneak up on us in strange and frustrating ways.

    09/24/13; 3:18 pm
  9. Heather Miller #

    Have you ever looked into elevations and insulin resistance? We are a skiing family, and last winter noticed huge increases in my type 1 daughters insulin needs when skiing at unusually high (Colorado) elevations. This is despite the increased activity levels of skiing. I did some research, and found some articles on changes in hormones at different elevations, and even research as it related to increased insulin resistance in Type 1′s. Started me thinking – She’s always high when we fly (I thought it was anxiety) and she’s always low when we are at sea level – like a beach holiday. (we live in Calgary, Canada – relatively high elevation.) Just makes me wonder about those flights……and those big numbers!
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21273491
    http://www.highaltitudemedicine.ie/index.php?view=article&catid=38%3Aphysiology&id=113%3Ahigh-alt

    09/24/13; 4:09 pm
    • azure wolfe #

      I travel quite a bit both to sea level and high elevation and find the same thing. At sea level I have to drop my basal rate and adjust my carb to insulin ratio. While high altitude skiing all winter I have to up my basal even with major exertion. I also hike/climb mountains and have to up my basal when above 9000 ft. My blood rises with the plane and falls with the plane all while I am totally relaxed so there must be something to elevation or plane travel or travel in general. I was once told it was merely a coincidence. Wow, this coincidence seems to be very consistent:)

      09/25/13; 9:53 am
      • Floh #

        Never thought about that, and I better keep an eye on this – thank you both.

        Did you also consider, though, that blood glucose measurement (apparently) depends on blood oxygen levels and thus high altitude _measurements_ could be wrong? I seem to remember reading a blog post somewhere about trouble above 4000m (that’s about twelvety miles and a bit of a foot for the non-metric :) ).

        09/27/13; 2:22 am
  10. Liz #

    I agree. My 14 yr old girl with T1d had really high bgs in her old school. Fresh start with a new school and new friends and bgs are in range.

    09/25/13; 8:22 pm
  11. Shari Ullian #

    Huh. Now, whenever I travel my blood sugars drop until they are shockingly low. In fact, many years ago in Hawaii was the first and only time I needed glucagon, administered by my mother our first night on the island! Whenever I go anywhere I need to closely administer my blood sugars because otherwise I am in huge trouble. I have learned to check, check again, and take lots of candy on the planes with me!!! Weird that I am opposite of what the others are saying, but it is a constant struggle with me, especially since cross-country flights don’t seem to feed you anymore!!

    09/26/13; 3:16 am
  12. Luis Correa #

    Wow, that is really interesting to see! Stress has such a huge impact on our bodies, and this proves it.

    09/26/13; 1:09 pm
  13. Floh #

    I’m really happy to see this documented – I can get my sugars higher than that while excitedly waiting for the start of a long distance bike ride. And those are the times I technically don’t want to increase my basal insulin. Or correct too much.

    09/27/13; 2:24 am

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