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Diabetes and college — together they present some unique challenges. Going away to college for the first time is exciting. You will be living away from your parents and learning to make decisions on your own. The greater independence may be a welcome change, but not having your parents to rely on may also cause some anxiety.
If you have diabetes, you have to learn not only the typical college drills — like doing your own laundry and getting along with a roommate — you also have to learn how to count carbs in the cafeteria and how walking to classes affects your blood sugar. You will have to remember to refill prescriptions and make doctor's appointments. The biggest challenge when it comes to diabetes and college, however, will be adjusting to a new schedule — one that is less predictable, with varying class times, late night study sessions, sports and parties.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the challenges that diabetes and college will throw at you:
Those of you who are experienced college students with diabetes, please share any other tips that you have learned along the way.
Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N.
Peggy Moreland, R.N.
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My son is a college student almost 20 years old. he was diagnosed with type1 when he was 17. He has been taking minimal amounts of insulin and he is lean and active. He now has mono...and was given prednisone to cope with the swollen sore throat. I know that they told him his sugars would be over range...with the meds..anybody else have problems with mono? How did others cope with diabetes and mono?
No name: I am a mother of two boys with type 1 diabetes. One is in grad school and the other graduated from West Point Military Academy and is an officer. They are both doing excellent. Low blood sugar is a common occurance after exercise and insulin needs to be adjusted accordingly.
"My children are prepared to live on their own before they leave home. They do their own laundry, clean, cook small meals and basically take care of themselves including medication. Time for some children to grow up or maybe they are not ready to go to college yet. Wow."
Wow is right! As the parent of a three-sport athlete with T1 diabetes and hypothyroidism I can only respond to this post with that. Obviously you have NO idea what it is like to have a child with diabetes. Our son is an "A" student who takes responsibility for his own treatment but college is totally different than high school. As his doctor has told him repeatedly, the highs won't do the damage for years but the lows can kill you and his extreme exercise causes his BG to drop like a rock quickly. What worked yesterday doesn't work today to get it back up. It's an ongoing struggle and as a parent, we want to give him the tools to deal with it but those tools change constantly. The first day he got out of the hospital after being diagnosed he went directly to basketball practice. Our diabetes educator told us in the hospital we wouldn't have to worry about lows for months. How wrong she was! He could barely stagger out of the gym trying to find a quick source of carbs. Unless you've walked in our shoes, keep your mouth shut!
I'm 25 & in my second semester of grad school. I was diagnosed type 1 last semester (about 1 month into the grad school experience). At first the disease didn't seem that bad. I had to inject insulin frequently, and "partying" all but stopped (I have a beer or 2 once or twice a month, but no more than that - it's dangerous). But once I gained tight control of my glucose levels, it actually got more difficult. Tight control means it's easier to experience hypoglycemic events. This began happening to me during class, and when it hits you it becomes nearly impossible to concentrate. Looking back at my notes during some of those events, I see the slow decline of my handwriting... My biggest hurdle has been learning to recognize the symptoms early. It's much easier to take care of 65 GL than it is a 45 (or less!), that's for sure. Also, make time to exercise before it catches up to you. Starting insulin seems like a guaranteed 10-lb increase... It's harder to take 10 off than it is to prevent it. Actually, regular exercise has decreased my insulin requirements, so now I can eat 10 or 15 g of carbs without injecting! Best advice: do everything possible to cook your own meals (even if it means getting a fridge and hot plate). Restaurants almost never have carb info on hand. They'll tell you calories and fat, but carbs are often unknown (which can lead to taking too little or too much insulin). Good luck!
I would recommend talking with your professors and the office at your university to discuss testing accommodations. Stressful times can lead to poor numbers and you cannot be without your meter and something to correct hypoglycemia. Also, many college campuses pay students to take notes for disabled students who may have to miss class. I, as a diabetic have personally had to use this when I have missed class due to ketones (both at the college and graduate level). Hope this helps
i am 22 and have an auto immune called hoshimoto's disease. its a diesease of the thyroid which causes symptoms like the underactive thyroid but twice as much. as a kid when doctors told my parents that if i didnt get treated i would end up with diabetes. thats exactly what happened. i went untreated from the age 12 to 18. i moved out at 18 with my boyfriend and found a wonderful docter who diagnost me with type 2 diabetes. I struugle with managing my blood sugar, work, school, and fitting in my excercise. i stiil am in denial but the occasional dizzyness reminds me to keep up. college and diabetes can be easy to manage when you live with your parents and they care for you like a child, and if you have the chance, do it. dont go out and live on your on because evey day it becomes harder to awake and get things done. there are good days and bad days. i struggle to pay my presciptions and tuition. its not the greatest way to go through college but if your strong you can do it.
thats my advice. stay with parents as long as they allow you to so that managing your diabetes isnt as stressful...
good luck. good eating...
Current college student in the States. I don't have diabetes but a different hormone-related chronic health condition needing diet control, regular blood tests, medication...(I guess somewhat less troublesome than diabetes). But in general, I think what's important for anyone attending college with a chronic health condition is to be wise when balancing your health versus being too ambitious--whether in studies or extracurriculars--'being social,' etc. Don't forgo required health routines for the sake of being able to be with your peers. Know your limits... realize and accept that you may not be as conditioned to do certain activities, and that you're parents are no longer behind your back nagging "you should know better etc. etc." Sure, college is a place to explore, achieve goals, make friends... but health is your most important, non-recoverable asset for your entire life.
I learned the hard way--now I'm forced to take a semester off for treatment before going back.
Let me continue.... If your son or daughter had to deal with this disease then you can make a comment like that! My son has always eaten healthy and is an athlete. This condition has nothing to do with weight nor exercise. He must inject insulin before every meal, snack, and before he goes to bed. A few times he has forgotten his night time shot for he is tired. Luckily we are there to help him. It is not advisable to be alone with type 1 for if you get sick and can't take care of yourself you risk serious consequences even death. We lost a friend that way. He got the flu, stayed home and got worse and passed away. TYpe 1 diabetic. I wish I could write a book.
Shocked in some of the comments. Wow! Do you have a child diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. You probably won't even read this but I wish you would. My son is a type 1 diagnosed at 17. He was a competitive swimmer when he was diagnosed. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that has attacked the islet cells that make insulin. Nothing can be done to stop this and it continues until they are all gone. They are insulin dependent the rest of their lives. Which means if you don't take your insulin you will die in a very short time. could only take a week! Maybe less. When they get sick they make ketones and have to treat for this which means they may miss class. A type 2 does not make ketones! Ketones are life threatening and can send them into a coma and even death. College is challenging for someone without a chronic illness. My son tires more easily with diabetes so it is a challenge. He is on the deans list and works very hard his first year. I help him with anything I can since you can get depressed if you are too overwhelmed with this disease. I am sometimes overwhelmed helping him. Childrens' hospital of Pa agrees that is an excellent patient and has great numbers but let me tell you this it is a constant challenge to manage this disease for it is very unpredictable. Every one reacts differently. When he becomes stressed over a test his numbers can rise. So those comments of Wow or care less is quite a low blow. Unless your son or daughter has had to deal with
We could care less what your kids can and can not do, wow! Maybe you should write a book!
A person with diabetes is more likely to manage their condition successfully if they undertake good quality and evidence based education. Training is the key to good management of blood glucose.
This is great post keep updating me.Thanks for the great reading, college information
I will pass this on to our Ira clients to read.I found this great website for free online service.
My children are prepared to live on their own before they leave home. They do their own laundry, clean, cook small meals and basically take care of themselves including medication. Time for some children to grow up or maybe they are not ready to go to college yet. Wow.
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