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Posts Tagged ‘Wearing a Medical Alert’

Even if you know an event you are going will have food, as a hypoglycemic, you still need to carry food on you for a couple of reasons:

  • You know the food with you meets your calorie/protein/carb needs.
  • There might be long lines, they may shut the food down, etc. You need to be prepared.
  • You should never go anywhere without food!
  • It’s cheaper. Eating every 3 hours can get pricey at a festival!

The process

Normally, if I’m going somewhere where I think they will not allow me to carry food in, I contact the venue/event managers a few days in advance to explain that I’m hypoglycemic and ask what I need to do. In most cases, they are absolutely great about it. They allow me to carry a small amount of food into concerts, football games, etc. by showing my medical alert necklace or bracelet to the person searching my bag.  I should mention that even the Secret Service, when I’ve been near two different U.S. Presidents, have allowed me to have food with me.

I’ve only had one concert venue give me grief and they give me grief EVERY SINGLE TIME. They always make me “check” (think coat check) my food at the emergency station. This is stupid because it’s tucked-away in a corner and hard to get to. Every time, they make me walk there with a security guard and hand my food over to the EMT’s. What they don’t know though, is once the security guard leaves, the EMT’s vent about how ridiculous it is, have me say “I need my food” and hand it right back to me before I walk back out and join my friends.

The biggest thing, I think is to be up-front and respectful and people usually accommodate. BUT, make sure you have your medical alert with you as proof.

What I carry

I usually carry pre-packaged foods so it’s less of a security issue. I carry protein bars (mindful of not carrying one that melts), nuts and dried fruit. I try to take at least two full snacks with me and plenty of money for food. You can see my usual set-up below with a small wristlet. If I can carry something bigger, I do, with an additional snack.

If I'm only allowed to carry a wristlet with me, I have in it plenty of money for food, a Clif bar, and dried fruit and nuts. My cell phone with credit card also fits.

If I’m only allowed to carry a wristlet with me, I have in it plenty of money for food, a Clif bar, and dried fruit and nuts. My cell phone with credit card also fits.

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As a hypoglycemic and/or a healthy eater, travel can be very difficult. It requires a significant amount of pre-planning, but these quick tips can help you make the  most out of your experience:

a pile of mixed nuts

Nuts are a great, easy-to-carry snack for traveling. Photo from Flickr: orinoko42

Before your trip:

– Choose your destination carefully. I probably shouldn’t start this post on such a negative, but this one is important. You MUST factor your ability to get food you can eat at your destination into your decision of where to travel. I’ve had opportunities to travel to many exotic places in the world, but some of these trips I turned down because they were going to areas where there were major food shortages. I try to not let it affect my travel choices. But, in reality, it does.

– Pack at least three carb/protein snacks per each day you will be traveling IN YOUR CARRY-ON. My favorites include Clif bars, Emerald 100 calorie packs of nuts, dried soy beans (Edamame), dried turkey jerky (much better for you than the beef version!) dried raisins and cranberries, and Zone Cookie Dough Bars (pack these in a box though, they smash easily).

– Pack a wide variety of these snacks so you don’t get bored and in case there is an issue with one of them. My friend Angie told me about a flight where someone on board had a severe nut allergy and she only had snacks with nuts with her. It was a long, hungry flight for her.

– Pack something healthy to nibble on. Sometimes, you just need a little something to get you until the next meal. Instead of spending tons of money and eating badly by grabbing a bag of chips at the airport, pack a small sandwich bag of baby carrots. True, they won’t last more than a day, but that’s a day less of junk food. I also always purchase a bag of pretzels or similar quasi-healthy snack item to take with me.

– For all of the above snacks, pack them in your carry-on so you have them accessible.

– If you have a choice of hotels, choose one that has a kitchenette. If that isn’t possible, find one with breakfast or, at the very least, a fridge and microwave.

– Research what grocery stores are located near your hotel.

– Pack an empty water bottle.

– Research how to say your medical condition in the language of the country you are going to and provide an overview of what to do if you get sick for all of your travel companions.

– Research customs where you are going about food. Is it common to wait at a restaurant for an hour to be sat? Is healthy food readily available?

-Pack Vitamin C tablets and take them a day before you leave through the day you return.

During your trip:

– Carry a bag with you at all times. I recommend a backpack or a across-the-shoulder bag. My general rule of thumb is to carry 9 hours worth of food (3 protein/carb snacks) with me at all times in my bag while in the U.S. (this just doesn’t mean while traveling, it’s EVERY DAY of my life) and 12 hours (4 snacks) with me while outside my own country.

– For all of the snacks listed in the “Before your trip” section, try to use them sparingly and replenish them as much as possible. Remember, the idea is to keep a good stash of food on you at all times, so don’t deplete your stash too much! You never know when disaster could strike; it could be as simple as a delayed flight or as crazy as being stranded in an airport for 3 days due to a hurricane. But, in all cases, be prepared. Getting into your stash as little as possible takes some pre-planning, but it’s not too difficult. If you walk into your hotel and notice a free bowl of fruit (if not in the lobby, some have it by the gym), grab an apple to eat  later instead of your dried fruit. Or, while grabbing lunch somewhere, purchase a small snack to have for your afternoon snack at the same time and carry it with you.

– Once you reach your destination, assess your room (fridge? microwave?) and then immediately head to the nearest grocery store.  Buy fresh fruit and easily-to-eat vegetables, high protein cereal (I recommend Kashi Go Lean), stuff for sandwiches, and snacks for the room based on how often you will be eating in the room (breakfast? lunch? or just snacks for night?).

– Remember that empty water bottle you packed? Good, now it’ll come in handy. If you are like me, you hate most hotel water and drink a lot of water during the day. So, while at the grocery store, also buy 1-2 gallons of water per person depending on the length of the trip. You can use your water bottle to drink this while in the room and, before you leave the hotel each time, you can fill this bottle with “good” water and take it with you on your daily excursions.

Wear your medical alert at all times (note: you should be doing this anyway!).

– Time zones make it difficult to figure out when your three hours is up and you should eat again. I recommend wearing a watch and keeping it on the same time zone during your trip or, if possible, use a time on your cell phone and set it for 3 hours (not a specific time, just 3 hours), so you won’t have to pay attention to the time.

– When in doubt, or, basically, whenever possible, go ahead an eat. If you gain a few pounds on the trip, fine. Your safety is more important. Just eat healthy and get the weight back off you when you return.

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If you are a hypoglycemic, you MUST wear a medical alert! It’s not an option and yet, I know so many hypoglycemics that don’t. What if you pass out? How will people know what’s wrong? Will they think you are diabetic and give you MORE insulin and drop your blood sugar further? These are risks you shouldn’t be willing to take.

Where should you wear your medical alert?

After causally interviewing multiple EMT’s, nurses, and one Emergency Room doctor, I’ve come to the conclusion that it should be around your wrist or around your neck. Although they make anklets, everyone in the field I talked to said they don’t check ankles, they only check wrists and neck.

It is probably best to wear it both places, but after having a lot of inconsiderate people come up, point to my bracelet, and ask what’s “wrong with me,” I’ve decided that I’ll only wear a necklace.

How to wear your medical alert

This is entirely up to the individual. Most people I know wear their medical alert on an extra-long necklace so that only the chain can be seen. This is how I wear mine. I bought a really long silver chain so the charm sits right under my bra (I put the necklace on and then the bra so the bra pins it in place). Since no one will see it except during an emergency, I put the clasp part of the chain down by the charm.  The long chain also allows me to wear another necklace around my neck and not have it be too distracting.

I originally had a steel ball chain, but after having one too many people ask about my “dog tags,” I switched to a very thin sterling snake chain I found on ebay. It works really well!

What information should I put on it?

Clearly, the fact that you are hypoglycemic should be on there. That is all that is on my bracelet. But, for my new necklace (pictured below), I decided more information would be better, so mine reads, “Hypoglycemic. Needs liquid sugar (pop, juice, frosting). Call [my emergency contact] at [her phone number].”

Does it have to be ugly?

There are a wide variety and  many pretty medical alert necklaces and bracelets now available. Below are my two that I wear. Most of the time, I wear the necklace, but, if I’m wearing something that won’t lend itself to the necklace, I’ll wear the bracelet. I got the necklace from Oneida Medical Jewelry and the bracelet from Morrison Jewelers.

medical alert necklace, medical alert bracelet,

My medical alert necklace and bracelet.

 

I hope this helps!

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