Preparing For Back to School with Type 1 Diabetes


Heading back to school is always an exciting part of the year, but for those with type 1 diabetes, it can be a little stressful, too. Managing your blood sugars at school means you need to be prepared for anything.

Here, we’ll discuss what you should have in your backpack, your cubby or locker and maybe even in your teacher’s desk drawer, too.

Backup supplies for diabetes management

No matter how you manage your diabetes, it’s important to have backup supplies of just about everything you might need to keep yourself safe at school.

This bag/kit/box of backup supplies should likely be stored in the school nurse’s office or another secure location with your teacher’s permission and knowledge.

Your backup supplies should include:

  • Rapid-acting insulin: stored in a refrigerator with the school nurse
  • Long-acting insulin: stored in a refrigerator with the school nurse, even if you use a pump, this should be accessible if your pump is damaged
  • Syringes or pen needles
  • Pump supplies: infusion set, reservoir, alcohol swabs, etc.
  • Continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or Flash blood glucose monitor (FBGM) supplies: sensors and patch adhesives
  • Numbing cream: if used for new pump/CGM/FBGM site insertions
  • Fast-acting carbs (in addition to what’s in your “low box”)
  • Glucose meter: even if you normally rely on a CGM/FBGM
  • Test-strips
  • Ketone strips
  • Emergency glucagon
  • Batteries for insulin pump, glucose meter, or CGM technology
  • Complete list of all the medications you take

This amount of stuff could easily fill a backpack! While it can feel a little overwhelming to gather it all, you can never predict when and what you might need. Being prepared means being safe with type 1 diabetes at school.

Prepare for low blood sugars: what’s in your low box?

Often referred to as a “low box”, this is the box or bag in your backpack and cubby or locker where you keep a stash of fast-acting carbohydrates to treat low blood sugars while you’re at school or on your way to/from school.

Fast-acting carbohydrates are foods or drinks that have no dietary fat or protein which makes it easier for your digestive system to break down into glucose and raise your blood sugar.

Most low blood sugars need 10 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate to return to a safe level within 15 minutes after consuming it.

Types of fast-acting carbohydrates include:

  • Fruit juice
  • Jelly beans
  • Glucose tabs
  • Smarties
  • Skittles
  • Gummies

When choosing fast-acting carbs to treat lows, remember to consider things like:

  • Whether it can easily rot, melt, or freeze
  • If you can store multiple servings to treat multiple lows (like small candy)
  • If it can be divided into easy servings 10 to 20 grams of carb

Ideally, you’ll talk to your teacher about storing some fast-acting carbohydrates in their desk drawer, too, making it easy for them to find when you need support during a low blood sugar.

Prepare for severe low blood sugars: emergency glucagon

Teaching your classmates and teacher about severe low blood sugar is especially important when you start a new school year.

When your blood sugar level starts dropping below 40 mg/dL, symptoms of severe low blood sugar can occur, including:

  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

If your classmates and teacher know where your emergency glucagon treatment is, they could save your life.

*Make sure you know where your classmate or student keeps their emergency glucagon.

Glucagon is a hormone produced by your pancreas that works by telling your liver to release glycogen (stored sugar), preventing low blood sugars in non-diabetic people.

Emergency glucagon is used to treat severe low blood sugar primarily in people with any type of diabetes who take insulin or other diabetes medications.

While people with diabetes do produce glucagon, they cannot always produce the amount needed during severing low blood sugar events. And that is why emergency glucagon is so important.

Emergency glucagon should be used in case of severe low blood sugars when…

  • Food or drink is not correcting low blood sugar
  • Person is unable to eat or drink
  • Person is seizing or convulsing
  • Person is unconscious
  • Person is unresponsive

Types of emergency glucagon

While there was only one option for decades—and it was complicated to use—there are many new and improved emergency glucagon treatment products available today, including:

Being safe with type 1 diabetes means being prepared! Even if you’ve never experienced a severe low blood sugar, it’s important to have these life-saving tools nearby.

Editor’s Note: This educational content on Back to School is made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes (Baqsimi), an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Editorial control rests solely on Beyond Type 1.

WRITTEN BY Ginger Vieira, POSTED 09/07/21, UPDATED 10/05/23

Ginger Vieira is an author and writer living with type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. She’s authored a variety of books, including “When I Go Low” (for kids), “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” and “Dealing with Diabetes Burnout.” Before joining Beyond Type 1 as digital content manager, Ginger wrote for Diabetes Mine, Healthline, T1D Exchange, Diabetes Strong and more! In her free time, she is jumping rope, scootering with her daughters, or walking with her handsome fella and their dog.