Tailgating and Type 1 Diabetes


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Fall is in the air, and that means tailgating season is here! Like music festivals and camping trips, tailgating is just another type of all-day adventure, complete with food, friends, fun … and of course, all things diabetes.

Eating and Drinking

Alcohol is one component of a game day spent outside the stadium, under a (hopefully) sunny sky, walking between barbecues and parties with lots of carb-alicious food. Drinking alone can make blood sugar levels more challenging to manage, without everything else that’s involved. Remember to sip some water in between beers! Since tailgating is an outside activity, dehydration can come into play, especially if the weather’s nice.

“The key to keeping everything in check is some regularity. I have pocketed a Sharpie countless times to track the beverage-to-BG-checking ratio,” says Patrick Tinsley, a student at the University of Notre Dame. Patrick also keeps an eye out for diabetes-friendly foods to help him manage his type 1 while tailgating. “I inevitably find myself gravitating toward snacks like pulled pork or brisket—not only are they delicious, but carbs are essentially a non-factor.”

What to Bring

Does the forecast calls for rain? Consider bringing a small, stadium-friendly drawstring bag, fanny pack, purse to carry your meter, low snacks and water bottle, and stashing some glucagon (nasal or injectable) is always a good idea. The bag doesn’t have to be waterproof—you can throw in a couple of Ziploc baggies and use these to store your meter, personal diabetes manager (PDM), Dexcom receiver, or any other electronics that need to stay dry if it starts pouring.

Exercise is often-overlooked component of tailgating. Fans are on their feet all day. Wear walking shoes and breathable clothing, and be prepared for the weather to change: when the sun starts to set and the shade creeps over the stadium, the autographed jersey and gym shorts that kept you cool throughout the day may no longer be enough. A light zip-up is a good idea for staying warm during both afternoon and night games.

Take Care of You

Be sure to catch up on sleep at some point during the weekend. Game days can start before 8 a.m., and if kickoff isn’t until 8 p.m., you’re in it for the long haul. If it’s the latter, you might want to rethink a Friday night celebration—or just try to schedule in a nap on Sunday before facing the real world.

Know how to find help if you need it. A medical alert bracelet can identify you’re type 1 to EMTs or other personnel. If you have an iPhone, you should also take advantage of the built-in medical ID form in your Health app. You can include details on your type 1, such as whether you wear a pump, and list any medications you take and emergency contacts you’d like to have notified in the event of any worst-case scenarios.

However, any tailgater who’s been around the parking lot once or twice knows that phones are prone to losing their charge by game time. To avoid losing your friends, your built-in medical ID, your Dexcom G5 app (need we go on?) you may want to invest in a portable battery charger. Check the stadium rules to make sure you’re allowed to bring such chargers in your bag before you set out for the day.

Don’t forget to tell your tailgate buddies about your diabetes. Who knows, maybe it will inspire them to put a carb count on their award-winning homemade mac and cheese?

“Have someone close who can help monitor everything,” Patrick suggests, “This friend by no means has to know everything about T1D, but I’m sure he or she will figure it out very quickly as the season continues.”

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WRITTEN BY BT1 Editorial Team, POSTED 10/03/17, UPDATED 12/29/22

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team.