Not Feeling Well

Being sick while traveling is never fun, but people with diabetes need to give extra care to how they respond to sickness while abroad. When you are sick the body demands more energy. This can cause blood glucose levels to become very high. It is therefore vital to increase your blood glucose testing frequency while you are on the road to recovery. Checking your blood or urine for ketones is also a good idea, if you catch your levels going high then you may be able to make early adjustments before reaching a state of emergency.

When you aren’t feeling well, it can be tempting to stop your regular medication routine. Don’t do this! Even if you are vomiting, you need to keep hydrated and continue taking your medications. Remember that blood glucose levels tend to rise when you are ill, so you may need even more insulin than normal! If you stop taking your medications all together, then you will be putting your body in a tough spot! Be smart, be patient, and manage your sickness well.

Bring these considerations to the attention of your diabetes team so that together you can form a sick-day action plan to get you back to full health as soon as possible! A few further thoughts on common illnesses abroad are as follows.


Traveler’s diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses you may encounter while abroad. While trying new foods in new settings, sometimes your body decides it has had enough. Eating simple foods such as beans, rice, or toast can be a good way to settle an upset stomach, but beware if you are drastically changing your average intake of carbohydrates!

Beyond the obvious inconveniences, diarrhea also poses a threat to the traveler in the form of dehydration. Although you may be hesitant to put anything more into your already struggling digestive system, it is important to stay hydrated so that your number of medical issues doesn’t grow. Don’t let dehydration get the best of you while you are sick!


If you are experiencing dehydration, get to a cool area as fast as possible. Find some shade and take a moment to sit down and rest. It is important that you start replenishing your liquids as soon as possible. Water is a fantastic choice, but Gatorade or a different sport drink option with electrolytes can be helpful as well. Take it easy and pay attention to if your symptoms change. If symptoms persist or worsen, contact a medical professional immediately.

Food Poisoning

New places often bring new foods and flavors to the table. This can be one of the best parts about traveling, but sometimes it brings the risk of questionable cuisine. Food poisoning usually lasts 1-2 days, dissipating with adequate time and rest. You will need to work hard to stay hydrated if you are experiencing frequent vomiting as you ride out the storm. If symptoms continue after two days, or if they start to affect basic functioning (breathing, vision, etc.) then contact a medical professional immediately.

Planning ahead

No one plans to get sick while abroad. But it is a good idea to take a few steps so that, if you do catch a bug, you can be back in action as soon as possible!

  • Have a copy of your medical information with you, this includes insurance. If your insurance doesn’t cover travel, then consider buying a policy that does.
  • Bring medications. While some sicknesses require serious medical care, there are a variety of over-the-counter medications that cover basic travel illnesses.
  • Plan time to rest. This does not seem like an exciting option when you are in a new place surrounded with a unique history and beauty. But you will be able to explore those attractions longer if you take the appropriate time to rest and recover as you go about your trip.
  • Eating at known restaurants with positive reputations and staying away from dairy or seafood options are two great ways to reduce your risk of contracting food poisoning or diarrhea. This does require researching what restaurants are in which areas and planning accordingly. Bringing your own snacks is another great way to avoid eating at low quality restaurants or stands when there is not much else available.
  • Water purification tablets are easy to pack and can be a great way to extend the timeframe you are able to spend out exploring without having to return to your hotel for clean water. Drinking unsanitary water is a quick way to land yourself sick in bed, so plan ahead if you are in an area where drinking water is not readily accessible.
Note: If at any point during your illness you are unable to keep food or liquids down, or do not have control of your blood sugar or ketone levels, seek medical care!