Air Plane Troubles

Since I was diagnosed eight years ago, I have always had trouble maintaining a good blood sugar level on air planes. I always seem to have a high glucose level while I am one the airplane. Is it normal for planes to affect blood sugars? If anyone else has this problem, how do you prevent it?

I absolutely have this problem!! I’m lucky if I can get below 250 while flying. Usually I just try to stay hydrated and check my bg frequently (which is much easier now that I have a CGM). I know stacking insulin doses is really dangerous but I usually end up doing that while flying and for some reason it seems to have no effect. I’ll be interested to hear if anyone else has tips!

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@lrgreenwood hi Lauren, me too.

Stress can do funny things to a persons blood sugar also, I pump and sometimes the pressurization can cause bug bubbles in my reservoir. I double my basal rate and re-prime my pump but I always run a little high.

And by bug bubbles I mean big bubbles. Sorry for any confusion

Thank you so much. I was very curious to know if it was normal.

Hi Lauren @lrgreenwood, I too have had some issues maintaining BG levels when flying - both highs and lows. Personally, when traveling I prefer to keep my BGL higher rather than taking a chance of dropping unexpectedly low.
If you use a pump, I’d advise that you suspend and disconnect the pump during both take-oo and landing. Changes in air presssuer can “possibly” cause unwanted insulin flow rate.

Ok, thank you so much for the suggestions.

Could be the increase in adrenaline! Excitement/anxiety from traveling. I always have to up my basals for my entire vacation.

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Lauren @lrgreenwood,

I don’t disagree with the suggestions that you have been offered, above, but want to emphasize this - when you are traveling (be it by car, train, bus, or airplane) you are confined and your movement and activity are extremely limited. In a word, you become “sedentary.” Any time that you shift from a “regular” level of activity to a “sedentary” level of activity you simply have to raise your basal level “a bunch” if you are using a pump. If you are using multiple daily injections your better option is to “stack” tiny boluses on a regular time interval (every hour or so) to “add” to the basal that your long-acting insulin provides. There are hints at this, above - I thought I’d give you a little more detail.

I use a “sedentary day” strategy any time I am traveling, or sitting at the computer (for several hours), or am involved in any other circumstance that limits my “whole body movement/activity” (e.g., attending a day of lectures, etc.). My “sedentary day” routine includes setting temporary basals that are .4 to .5 Unit higher than my normal basals; I confirm that my basals are managing things by checking my blood glucose level about an hour and a half after I start each temporary basal. I have been very pleased with this strategy. Remember, your blood glucose meter is your friend - use it!

Regarding the effects of stress on blood glucose levels, if your blood glucose level is “near normal,” short periods of stress (e.g., hurrying to catch a plane) will have little lasting effect. But, if your blood glucose level is already elevated short periods of stress will cause it to go up a bit more. Then, when you compound that by being sedentary, Ugh!

Here’s my point about stress - its effect is unpredictable and unreliable. The effect of being sedentary is very predictable and reliable. So, adjust your insulin regimen to manage being sedentary; that gives you a better chance of managing things well without putting yourself in jeopardy. This past May my wife and I traveled from Texas to the Grand Canyon on a 10 day vacation. With a little extra work I was able to keep my blood glucose level close to “normal” for the whole trip. And the trip included days of being completely sedentary (driving all day) to being very active (hiking about the Canyon). For me, it’s all about the basals (with adequate boluses to cover meals).

Hope this helps a bit.



This helps so much. Thank you. I will be sure to try and use some of these suggestions.

I agree with Bill, the lack of movement will effect Sugar Levels. I learnt early on that when on long flights and crossing time zones, I take a regular basal at the regular time of day in my take off zone then, during the flight, I test my blood levels and adjust with shots from my fast acting until I arrive at my destination time zone and immediately adopt there clock and continue my regimen as though I was at home.

I don’t order any special meals and if my sugars are low, it is the only time I will ask for a soda drink!

Happy travels!

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Thank you so much. Everyone has been a big help.

There are also potential technical issues with blood glucose monitoring equipment in flight. Just be careful with overcorrecting. Though, I think the tendency is for the equipment to underestimate blood glucose readings in flight, so hopefully not increasing the danger of causing a hypocrite.

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I used to think my high sugars when flying were due to long periods of inactivity sitting at the airport gate waiting to board and then hours on the airplanes. But lately, I have not had such a problem, and I think all along it was the stress of traveling.

I have had the same problem before big events like my child’s wedding. My blood sugars went up and up over a period of months and then crashed down on the day of the wedding itself.

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