Living with diabetes blog

Diabetes and college

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. August 21, 2009

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:

  • Take the initiative. Find a diabetes care team near your college. Start with your college's health center. Get recommendations for endocrinologists/diabetologists in the area. Your parents can help with this process.
  • Meet with the resident assistant (RA) to go over emergency procedures. Offer to give the RA a glucagon kit to use in case of severe low blood sugar.
  • Tell your roommate and close friends that you have diabetes. Explain how they can help if you have symptoms of low blood sugar. Teach a close friend how to administer glucagon in case of an emergency.
  • Work with a diabetes educator. He or she can help you figure out how to control fluctuating blood glucose during college sports.
  • Get a fridge for your dorm room. Store supplies and snacks in it. Let your roommate and friends know that the snacks in there are for you and that they are not to help themselves without first asking you.
  • Be prepared to treat an insulin reaction. Buy large quantities of whatever you take for insulin reactions to avoid panicky runs to the grocery store in the middle of the night.
  • Wear a medic alert bracelet. And wear it all the time. There are many different styles available.
  • Keep a copy of insurance and prescription cards. Keep a copy in your wallet and another in your room.
  • Have an extra glucose meter for backup. And make sure you have extra batteries as well.
  • Use a needle/test strip disposal container. Be considerate of your roommate and friends.
  • Keep three months of diabetes supplies on hand. Check your stock periodically. Have your prescriptions on file at a local pharmacy.

Those of you who are experienced college students with diabetes, please share any other tips that you have learned along the way.

Peggy

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Aug. 21, 2009