Taking Diabetes Devices Through Airport Security Can Be Stressful! Have You Tried TSA Cares?

Airport security.

Those two words conjure up lots of images… Waiting. Watching the clock. Scrambling.

Scrambling to get carry-ons onto the conveyor belt. Scurrying to remove shoes, unload purses, jackets and other personal belongings into trays. Answering children’s questions while urging them to help. Last minute searches to find the 3-1-1 bags of liquids and gels. And so on…

Denver International Airport

© Depositphotos.com/TeriVirbickis

Diabetes takes this stressful exercise to a new level.

Seven years ago we were nerved up about how this process would go. Our son N had been diagnosed with diabetes one year earlier. We had never boarded a plane with this disease. We researched and followed the recommended steps without incident.

In the seven years of being on MDI (multiple daily injections), never did we have an issue. They never asked to see the letter either. They never questioned our ice blocks or liquids to treat lows (in sizes larger than 3 oz.). In recent years, we actually became fairly relaxed about it.

Using the word “relaxed” is pretty significant for me if you’ve been following my blog. N has a life-threatening peanut allergy as well as diabetes (and other conditions). Add my flight anxiety to the mix and “relaxed” is hardly a recognizable word on airline travel days!

This past summer was different. Our son, N, became an insulin pump user in 2013. He also started wearing a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). With these new devices, I had homework to do…

There were loads of forums with similar questions posed. How do I travel with my pump and CGM? What should I expect? Most comments offered helpful information and reassurance but the sprinkling of TSA horror stories sure caught my eye. And the advice was often inconsistent.

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Flights, Peanuts, Allergic Kids — More Notes From an Anxious Mom

It’s been a worrisome month in the food allergy community. In two separate incidents, a little girl experienced anaphylaxis aboard an airplane as a result of a life-threatening nut allergy.

As a parent of a peanut-allergic child, my breath just stops when I read such a story. I know I am not alone. Twitter is abuzz with reactions to these terrifying incidents.

One of our greatest challenges as parents is to figure out how to assimilate these stories. Should we halt our travel plans to places far from home — that is, until policies change? Or do we continue flying, knowing that anaphylaxis in the air is a rarity?

I described what it’s like to process the information we read, both the news stories of anaphylaxis in the air and the research to date, in my post: Flights, Peanuts, Allergic Kids — And, Yes — Anxiety. I had wondered if we should cancel our family trip to Hawaii — a trip that involved a five hour flight over an ocean.

It’s not that we are new to flying with a peanut-allergic child. This allergy has been with us for 11 years. What’s new is that I had connected to Twitter and on-line support forums.

We went ahead with our vacation plans. Here’s how it turned out:

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Is the Food Safe on Vacation? Seven Lessons Learned.

If you’ve researched all your allergen specific and/or gluten-free dining options in advance of your vacation, you’re awesome! You’ve cut stress and hours of research time out of your trip, thereby maximizing the fun. Congratulations!

But then there’s the rest of us. Perhaps we thought we’d somehow fit this research time in before we left — in between the packing, appointments and general demands of a busy family.

Or, if you’re like me, you did do some research, googling your destination and checking results on dining apps like AllergyEats, Find me Gluten Free, and more. And the results were unfruitful. But even the best laid plans go awry. Businesses close and itineraries change.

These scenarios above lead to one fall back option: Find a dining establishment on the fly.

In our hometown, my skills have gotten a little rusty as we tend to frequent the same businesses. A three-week trip has since cured me of that. After repeatedly finding dining options on short notice, my approach has been fine tuned.

It’s still a daunting task — and I’m not perfect at it. But the lessons learned (or re-learned) along the way were valuable. I hope you’ll find them helpful and respond with some of your own!

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Flights, Peanuts, Allergic Kids — and, Yes — Anxiety

Preparations are underway for a wonderful family vacation this summer. But I’ve had an unwelcome visitor in the process this year. Flight anxiety.

This isn’t your garden variety flight anxiety — worrying about the plane crashing to earth (I definitely have that one though). This is a fear of bringing my peanut-allergic son onto an aircraft and seeing him experience a life-threatening reaction 35,000 feet up in the air. Over the Pacific Ocean. Hours away from an emergency room.

Have you had these fears, too?


We’ve flown many times over the years with this life-threatening peanut allergy. My son N was diagnosed over 10 years ago when he was 2. We have followed the typical protocols, addressing his needs with the airlines, asking for accommodations and bringing our life-saving medications — and foods — on board. The flights we’ve taken (to Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe) have been uneventful — thankfully! And I have to admit — we really haven’t worried about it. Much…

So what changed?

Twitter. That (relative) state of calm has been shattered since I signed up for a Twitter account in the past year. I’ve clicked on links to read heart-wrenching accounts of anaphylaxis. Tearing up as I read them, I’ve mentally noted the varying descriptions of how anaphylaxis presents itself.

We’ve never had to give our son epinephrine. He did receive it at diabetes camp once, years ago. Aside from that traumatic incident, the Epis have been dutifully carried around in my son’s bag without use for over ten years.

Since we have never administered Epinephrine ourselves, it’s easy to feel somewhat complacent. Will I recognize the signs of an allergic reaction should an emergency occur? We’ve all heard the pleas from medical professionals and parents who have been through this experience: Don’t hesitate! Give the Epi-pen or Auvi-Q shot!

Facing fears… Continue reading

Protecting Your *Other* Precious Cargo on a Summer Road Trip: Insulin and Diabetes Supplies

IMG_9330 - Version 2Summer is around the corner and road trip season is almost upon us! The itinerary and reservations are set. Our car has visited the dealer for a maintenance check. Kids are safely strapped into their seats and we’re ready to go.

But what about the safekeeping of insulin and our other medical supplies? The astronomical costs of these supplies and the extent to which we rely on them warrants some thoughtful consideration.

Last summer this topic was front and center for us as I planned our four week road trip to Colorado. With diabetes, celiac and food allergies, there are lots of supplies to bring. These supplies proliferate when you’re planning an extended road trip. Safekeeping this precious cargo as you move in and out of various accommodations gets pretty complicated! Add summertime to the mix and you have a real concern — keeping your supplies safe from the perils of summer heat.

Where there are worries, there are solutions. I’d like to share some of my own. I’m hoping that you’ll share your solutions, too. We’ll all be the smarter for it!

Options for keeping opened vials in a safe temperature range: Continue reading

Being a Houseguest with Food Allergy and Celiac; What Do You Say to Your Host?

Invitations to stay with friends and family aren’t extended to us very often. Or dinner invitations for that matter. We’re likable people and our three boys are well behaved. We’re great eaters and like a wide variety of foods. We’re not short on friends and family members either.

The difficulty comes from the fact that we are high maintenance guests to cook for. N, our middle son, has a life-threatening peanut allergy and celiac disease in addition to type 1 diabetes. I have a long list of food intolerances that includes dairy, eggs, 4 veggies, 4 fruits, and quinoa. (Intense stomach cramps and nausea keep me adherent to a diet without these offenders.)

As if that wasn’t enough, my oldest son, B, was a vegetarian for about four years. Thankfully, B gave up his vegetarianism two years ago after a stay in Denmark — a country that loves their meat. I am supportive of vegetarianism; We just didn’t need another dietary restriction in our household. Food intolerances are a nuisance, but having a life-threatening food allergy or celiac disease is serious business.

IMG_9208So, when we get an invitation to someone’s house for a meal or to stay with them, they usually aren’t familiar with the extent of our special diets.

After learning about these dietary restrictions, hosts tend to fall into two camps: welcoming hosts and the fearful — OMG, Can I retract my invitation? — hosts.

Welcoming hosts, extend that invitation without awareness of the work involved. Some may not understand the severity of the issue. Celiac? No problem, we’ll leave out the bread and pasta. Peanut allergy? The peanuts and peanut butter will remain in the cupboard during your visit.

If you or your child has a food allergy and/or celiac, you know the story can’t end there. Consideration must include the hidden sources of gluten in jarred sauces and broths, the dried fruit processed with peanuts that was added to the salad, the porous cookware, utensils and cutting boards and practices in which cross-contamination could occur. Continue reading

Taking Diagnoses on the Road

Type 1 diabetes made itself known to us while we were on a three week road trip back in 2006. N, our five year old son, started having some accidents at night just prior to our trip. My husband and I looked at each other and wondered aloud if it could be diabetes but put it right out of our minds. We were probably just worrying too much. I had worked with kidney dialysis patients (many of whom had type 1) as a social worker years earlier and my husband is a family practice doctor. We both knew the signs.

The next day, after saying goodbye to my husband, my mom, the three kids and I set off on our road trip. Two days later, our dismissed worry became a reality. On July 1st, 2006, following an outpatient blood draw at a rural hospital in Iowa, we received the diagnosis. N had type 1 diabetes. This is in addition to celiac disease and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease (dx age 4), a life-threatening peanut allergy (dx age 2) and reactive airways in infancy, later diagnosed as asthma. My husband had already been scheduled to fly out and join us later that day. We faced a decision: Continue the trip or go home? After my husband consulted with our pediatrician and the pediatric endocrinologist, we decided to continue. He brought a glucometer and insulin, we made a stop at a pharmacy and we were on our way.

There were lots of tears all around. N cried when getting poked while his bewildered brothers (S, age 3, and B, age 8) looked on. B cried out: “Why would God do this?” I cried, too. It was a shock to take in this new regimen. A week earlier, we “only” worried if N’s food was safe for him. I was so grateful that my husband knew how to manage our new medical devices. I tried in vain to reach a dietician and finally received a little information about counting carbs. We didn’t have all the information that we needed (we’d get that upon our return), but somehow we all muddled through, checking N’s blood glucose prior to each meal and giving him his insulin.* Continue reading