The Co-Worker’s Guide to Type 1 Diabetes


Editor’s Note: This content is a part of Beyond Type 1’s guidebook, which includes guides for everyone who has a type 1 in their life. Check out the rest of our customized guides for the different people in your life here!

The nine-to-five work lifestyle isn’t the easiest for anyone, especially for someone with type 1 diabetes. Through meetings, work events, traveling and stress, those with type 1 diabetes (T1D) still have to treat, test and manage blood sugar levels all the time. Perhaps you will work with someone who has type 1 diabetes, or you are simply interested in learning more. Consider this guide to help you learn the ins and outs of type 1 diabetes in the work force.

What is Type 1?

Here is the short and sweet explanation. T1D is an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s pancreas to stop producing insulin. Our bodies need the hormone of insulin to get energy from food. Therefore, we need to inject or continually infuse insulin through injections or a pump. We also need to regularly monitor our blood sugar levels.  T1D is a 24/7 job and there is currently no cure. Type 1 diabetes is different from type 2 diabetes in that type 1 is insulin deficiency, while type 2 is an overproduction of insulin and the inability to use that insulin properly.

Management 101

The baggage that we carry can include our glucose meter, insulin, needles and monitors. The glucose meter is a device that measures blood sugar. We use a device that pricks our finger and we put the blood sample onto a test strip. From there, the test strip is read by the meter and gives us a number on the meter screen.

We can get insulin into our bodies through multiple daily injections (MDIs) or an insulin pump.

Injections are delivered to our bodies through insulin pens and needles. There are two types of insulin that we use:

Fast-acting insulin  – gives our bodies insulin right away and is taken with meals or to correct a high blood sugar. Fast-acting insulin is used multiple times a day, depending on when you eat.

Long-acting insulin – which is given once a day. Long-acting insulin is a slow release insulin that is given to your body in a span of 24 hours when needed.

No, it is not a pager!

We are not “bringing back” the pager, don’t worry. That device that is attached to our clothing is an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a device that is connected to the body, either through a tube or wirelessly. With the control of a device, you are constantly getting insulin through the pump. During meals, we can choose how much insulin to give, and the device is already in our skin and ready to deliver the amount needed.

Another device that someone with type 1 might have is a CGM. CGM, or continuous glucose monitor, measures blood glucose levels in real-time throughout the day and night. The CGM sensor is inserted under the skin to measure blood glucose levels in fluid tissue. The senor is connected to a transmitter that sends the information to a display device. It is common for many people to have the CGM readings connected to an iPhone or smart watch.

Beeping and buzzing

Not to worry! The alarm sound that you might hear from time to time is probably coming from an insulin pump or a CGM. It could be an alarm indicating a high blood sugar, which would warrant us to give ourselves insulin. (That means either preparing a needle and giving an injection or punching into your pump meter.) A needle or syringe injection can be inserted in the arm, leg, or stomach. It could also be an alarm indicating a low blood sugar, which would warrant us to eat a snack to raise our blood glucose levels.

Highs and lows, and everything in between

Be aware that our moods can be affected by blood sugar levels, high or low. When you are high or low, you don’t feel like yourself. Staring at a computer, trying to pay attention or making decisions are difficult when we are dizzy, confused, fatigued and just out of it. You might be able to tell if your co-worker is not acting like himself or herself in a meeting. Take note of any signs or symptoms that your co-worker might be experiencing that seem out of the ordinary.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia or “going high”:

  • nausea
  • deep sighing breaths
  • confusion
  • flushed and warm skin
  • drowsiness
  • very thirsty

*When we are hyperglycemic, we will need to administer insulin through an injection or a pump.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia or “going low”:

  • shaky
  • pale and sweaty skin
  • headache
  • hunger
  • weakness
  • confusion

*When we are hypoglycemic, we will need to eat a snack that has a good amount of fast-acting carbohydrates to raise our blood sugar quickly. This could be anything from fruit snacks, a juice box, or crackers.

Emergency situations

  • If we are conscious, encourage us to check our blood sugar so we can treat accordingly.
  • If we are conscious but incapacitated (unable to respond or seem out of it), immediately contact emergency services.
  • If we are ever passed out or unconscious, immediately call emergency services.

Most likely an emergency situation would be caused by hypoglycemia or a low blood sugar and in that case, a fast-acting glucose needs to be taken immediately. This means juice boxes, candy, glucose tablets, or any other sugary food or drink that can be consumed easily.

If we are unconscious, you may have to administer emergency glucagon. Determine ahead of time with the person who has type 1 if you’d like to be the point person for such an emergency and would like to be trained to help.

What is glucagon?

Glucagon is a hormone medicine used in emergencies when a person with diabetes is experiencing hypoglycemia and cannot take sugar orally. It comes in a nasal formulation called BAQSIMI, as well as in powder form in a kit which requires reconstitution.

See the rest of our customized guides here.

WRITTEN BY BT1 Editorial Team, POSTED 04/04/17, UPDATED 12/28/22

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