Growing up with T1D
Editor’s Note: For more information on managing type 1 diabetes while growing up, sign up for Beyond Type 1: College Edition, our email series on all things college + type 1 diabetes (T1D).
I guess there’s one thing we can all agree on: diabetes is not easy! It takes effort, planning, and a whole lot of time to manage. However, with every age group, diabetes presents you with a set of unique challenges and obstacles.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when growing up with type 1 diabetes.
Driving gives you freedom and a sense of growing up. However, for people with type 1 diabetes, it is very important to learn about safe driving while managing your type 1 diabetes (T1D). First, know the rules and regulations for driving in your province or country. In Canada, it is a must to drive with a blood sugar level above 5mmol/l (94mg/dl). Ensure that your car is always stocked up with low supplies in case you have to pull over. Depending on the temperature, keeping a backup meter in the car can be handy, too. I’m sure we’ve all left our meters accidentally at home every now and then. Lastly, make sure to wear or have on you some form of medical identification and an emergency contact number.
More tips on Getting Your Driver’s License.
Moving Out, Dorm Life, University
Who’s not excited to leave high school and move on to university? Whether you are moving out or staying at home, here are a few things to keep in mind before starting university. Make sure to set up exam accommodations to suit your needs and diabetes. Whether extra time, unlimited breaks, or stopping the clock when needing to deal with blood glucose levels (BGLs). Even though some university classes will be large and impersonal, it’s still important to inform your professors about your diabetes in case you need assistance during the lecture.
Lastly, know what’s around you and where to access the medications you need in case you forget spares or run out. About a week ago I was about to devour a delicious bowl of quinoa salad when my pump gave me no delivery. I was stuck at university for another five hours and without insulin. I was sure to end up with ketones. Knowing where the pharmacy is located at my university, I managed to go buy some syringes and extract the insulin from my pump and give an insulin injection to keep me going for the next five hours.
If you are living in dorms, let your roommates know you have diabetes and how they can help if needed. Make sure to stock up on low supplies and extra food. Lastly set up a meal plan and ask if they have nutritional information such as the carb count for the foods they offer.
Depending on where you live, this might not apply to you. At age 18, your pediatric diabetes team prepares you to transition to adult care. This can be a different experience for everyone. Unlike at children’s hospital, you are required to have your blood work done prior to your diabetes appointment. This can be done either at a blood work lab or at the hospital. Your endocrinologist is separate from your dietician and nurse. This means you will need to book two appointments. (Once every three months to meet your dietician and nurse, and another appointment every six to eight months to meet your endocrinologist.)
Another point to keep in mind: it’s very important to have supportive and good communication between you and your diabetes team! That means you have the right to switch between care providers until you find the right ones for you. Lastly, just because you’re an adult and have to transition to adult care now doesn’t mean you have to attend your appointments alone. Remember that you can always take a friend or family member.
Once again this might apply to some. Just like driving, if you decide to have alcohol, it’s important that you know how it might effect your blood sugar. With alcohol in your system your liver is busy processing it, and that means glucagon will not take effect if required due to a severe low. Make sure to have low treatment and medical identification when out at parties or with friends. Alcohol can cause unexpected changes in your blood sugar, so be sure to check your blood sugar levels before heading to bed. You may also want to set alarms to check through the night.
Check out Beyond Type 1’s Booze Guide.
Being older doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly managed to get your diabetes under control. We all go through rough times with our diabetes at different stages of our lives. It happens to us all. When going through a rough time know where to turn for help and assistance. Reaching out to other people with diabetes through social media is a very nice tool. Don’ forget your diabetes care team. At most diabetes clinics, there’s a social worker or a psychologist you can see. Lastly, if you’re in university, visit student services and ask to connect with a social worker or psychologist. Those services are there for you, so take advantage of them.
The last topic I wanted to mention is traveling. As you become more independent you will start to venture out on your own. When traveling it is very important to be organized. As you prepare for your trip, search for pharmacies and supermarkets near your hotel in case you need to fill up on food or medical supplies. If you require a travel pump (spare pump) make sure to order that two weeks prior to your travel date. Carry all supplies with you in your carry-on bag in case you lose your luggage. And don’t forget to double up on supplies. Don’t forget to change your medical devices, pumps, sensors and meters to your destination’s time zone once you’ve landed. Lastly, carry or wear some form of medical identification.