I’m diabetic, and it is really not that easy when you travel a lot with frequent time zones changes. In this article, I’m going to write a little bit about how I’m dealing with traveling with diabetes and share with you my experience with my latest discovery – Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system called Freestyle Libre.

Traveling With Diabetes

I always suffer from three major issues when it comes to traveling with diabetes:

  • Long haul flights with air dry like on the desert what causes quick dehydration
  • Time zone change which disrupts all the regularity in my life
  • Local food and culture – where I always try to find appropriate food for my diet. Additionally, sometimes local habits kill my regularity even more (as an example, in Spain people eat very late)

So far I didn’t find any good remedy to deal with all these troubles – I can only make it a little bit less severe. To do that, I follow a few simple rules. These are:

  • I always wear a diabetic bracelet in case I pass out somewhere in the world
  • Wherever I travel, I always have medical insurance
  • I always order a special meal for diabetes on long haul flights (it’s possible up to 48 hours before the departure)
  • I keep some almonds, nuts or dried fruits in my sling backpack which I always have with me

Not Another “Top Ten…” Article

Anyway, it was not my intention to write another “ten things you have to know about traveling with diabetes” as you will have a tone of such articles on the web. The one which I really recommend you can find on the CDC’s website. I’d rather wanted to share with you my first encounter with something called Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) System.

For me, this is the revolution for people with diabetes. It’s the only way to know your disease in detail. What I mean is that with this system, you are able to observe your glucose level online. You know exactly how long does it take to recover after a meal, you know how much time you are within the healthy level of blood sugar and much more useful information allowing you to know more about your illness.

How I Did It Before – Contour Plus One

Before we will go to the CGM system I will tell you how did I follow-up my glucose levels before ad why I was searching for alternative solutions.

As many people with diabetes, I was using a lancing device to do the puncture in my skin to obtain a drop of blood for the test strip.

Single readings from the testing device and storage of the last 30 results in the device’s memory – that was not good enough for me. Well, as you might know, I’m crazy about the data so I had to find something more advanced.

Then I found a Bluetooth Glucometer – Contour Plus One. This one was able to connect with my phone and provide some statistics.

Analyzing The Results With Contour Plus One

As it was said, Contour Plus One offers the Contour app (free download and to use) where you can collect your readings, add notes, do the reports.

Among the others, here are some examples of reports which you can take out from that:

Contour Diabetes – this is where my results are stored
Sample graph with averages from glucose tests
Averages are presented by hours from a given period

But still, the biggest problem with that system is that you always have to carry the device, test strips, lancing device and hurt yourself… in my case, this resulted in fewer readings and less knowledge about my diabetes.

This is a problem when you are on travel. Imagine – long haul flight and you start to feel that something is going on with your glucose level. To make sure you have to check it. If it’s in the compartment and you have a window seat, and your flight mate is sleeping – you are in trouble. Of course, you will call flight attendants to help you with that (unless it’s in your checked-in luggage), but as I learned recently – there are better ways to check your glucose level while traveling.

Freestyle Libre – Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) System

Once, I told my doctor that I’m looking for some more sophisticated and data-based solutions for glucose monitoring and he told me about Freestyle Libre.

Freestyle Libre is the Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) System – using the NFC sensor applied on your body it takes readings from your interstitial fluid glucose levels and transmits to your phone.

In other words, it’s the most user-friendly way to read your glucose level – no more needles, no additional equipment besides the sensor which is applied on your arm.

Freestyle Libre – Unboxing and Sensor Application

My first sensor was delivered in the cartoon box with all necessary accessories like an application device, IKEA like instruction and sanitizing sheets.

I didn’t need any assistance to apply the sensor – it was easy to do it on my own. According to the user manual, once the sensor is applied it will work for 14 days. After that time it has to be removed and the new one needs to be applied.

Before starting with the sensor application, I had to download from Google Play / App Store the app called LibreLink.

Unboxing my first CGM sensor – Freestyle Libre

To apply the sensor it’s enough to follow the attached instruction. Looking at the long needle I thought that application will be painful, but it wasn’t.

Right after application to my arm

When the sensor was applied, I had to launch the app and do the first scan. After that, the app started a 1-hour countdown until the sensor was ready to work.

When I say “scan”, it means that you launch the LibreLink app on your phone and just put it close to the sensor. The phone will vibrate to confirm the reading. The best thing is that clothes are not a problem. I did my scans even through the winter jacket!!!

The sensor is water-resistant, so you don’t need to be worried about it when taking a shower or bath. This is another great positive of this device. I’ve seen on Amazon additional protection in the form of patches.

The applicator is for single use only and should be scrapped after use

The producer explains on the website that the sensor automatically measures glucose levels every minute and stores readings at 15-minute intervals for 8 hours. If you will not scan the sensor for longer than 8 hours, you will lose the oldest records. This will look like a gap in the graph.

Analyzing The Results With LibreLink App

It’s important to check whether the sensor is well calibrated. The best is to compare several measures from the blood using the traditional method with test strips and the scans from the FreeStyle Libre sensor. I always do couple of trials in some time intervals.

When all is ok, you can start filling the app with the data.

Now, I will show you some cool indicators and graphs generated by LibreLink base on your scans.

My experience is that after some time with FreeStyle Libre I discovered which food brings my glucose up to the sky and which is glucose neutral. In general, it gave me full disclosure of your disease nature.

After 14 Days

As I mentioned before, the usage of a single sensor is time-bounded. After 14 days your app will tell you that the sensor is dead and you have to remove it.

Used FreeStyle Libre sensor removed from my arm
That’s how your arm looks like just after removal

Wrap Up

Traveling with diabetes using a CGM system is far easier. Online Glucose Monitoring gives confidence and kind of safety as I can check my blood sugar anytime – when boarding the plane or checking in at the hotel counter.

So far, I was mentioning mainly the pros of the FreeStyle Libre CGM system, and what are the cons? The main problem is the price – a single sensor in my country costs around 60 EUR and because of the 14 days limit, the monthly usage is 120 EUR.

In this article, I’ve shared with you my first experience with CGM – so far I consider it a great step in helping diabetes to gain more control over their condition. As CGM helps people in traveling with diabetes, I will keep digging into this topic, so stay tuned for the next articles on CGM systems.

Photos: Lucas

Featured image source: pixabay.com

Valuable text? Share with others: