When its summer time, its travel time. Thousands of people across the country will pack their bags and zoom off to the destinations of their choice. One wants to travel to enjoy, seeing new places and being with their family and friends. Enjoy, of course, but a word of caution for all diabetics.
If you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet is very important, especially when you are traveling.
You must remember that diabetes affects the nerves and gives rise to insensate feet. Lack of sensation makes the feet more prone for injuries, trauma, infections etc. Traveling demands a lot of walking, lot of travel, footwear for long hours and likelihood of absence of immediate medical aid. This can precipitate injuries and thereby infections.
What should you do?
- Consult your diabetologist / physician before travelling.
- Keep a medical identification card that states you have diabetes. This will help in case of emergency such as hypoglycemia ( Low sugar levels)
- Keep your sugars well controlled. Fluctuating blood sugars during travel can increase the risk of complications.
- Use comfortable shoes that will protect you from the weather as well as from injuries. Ideally a shoe should be one size larger than the usual size and should have a good, soft and comfortable insole
- Do not wear open sandals. Exposed toes can increase risk of injury.
- Do not carry the new shoes for travel. They may cause a shoe bite
- Wear thick cotton socks. This will keep the feet protected and dry and will avoid fungus in the web spaces.
- Never walk barefoot. There are a lot of incidences, where people walk barefoot to a place of worship or on a beach. Because of neuropathy they do not realize how hot the floor can be due to this they finally land up with burns and blisters.
- During long flights, opt for an aisle seat. It is advisable to get up and move a little, every one to two hours to avoid developing swelling of the feet. Keep stretching your feet at regular intervals
- Avoid hot water fomentation or extreme temperatures as it can burn the skin. Many people do this to treat their tired feet at the end of a long day
- Avoid vigorous massage to the feet as it can harm the skin.
- Callus and corns are as a result of pressure. Use customized diabetic footwear to avoid that. Get corns and calluses treated by your doctor a few days before you travel.
What to Pack:
Prescription: Carry a prescription from your treating doctor. This proves handy so that the local treating doctors know about your condition. It may also be advisable to carry medicines which can be taken in case a foot infection or injury occurs so that one does not have to run about to procure medicines. Your regular treating doctor would be able to help you best on this because he will know what exactly suits you in an emergency.
Glucometer: This is to keep a tab on your sugars.
- Sterile gauze pieces
- Antibacterial cream
- Antifungal powder
- Antibiotics (As suggested by your doctor for emergency)
Foot care guidelines:
- Examine the feet daily. Look for any change in colour, blisters, cuts, injuries like an avulsed nail etc.
- Wash feet with warm water and soap and dry them thoroughly. Ensure that the water is not hot
- Keep applying moisturizer on the feet. (Do not apply it in between the toes).
- Trim your nails regularly. Do not cut deep inside.
- Change the socks daily.
What should you do if you develop a foot problem while you are traveling?
In spite of all care, if there is a foot problem while you are traveling, follow these simple instructions.
- Stop walking with immediate effect. Walking on the affected foot can make it worse. Take complete rest
- Elevate the foot. This will reduce the swelling over the foot.
- Avoid friction especially in case of a shoe bite or blister, as friction can aggravate the wound.
- Avoid wetting the wound as water can macerate the affected area further causing infection
- Dress it every day with sterile gauze and antibacterial cream. Open wounds can get superadded infection.
- Consult a doctor, preferably a surgeon as soon as possible. Ignoring a foot problem can be dangerous…. And every single day matters.
Follow these guidelines for safe feet… happy travelling
The author of this article is a diabetic foot surgeon