Diabetes in Public

Dear Ann Landers,
With all due respect—you blew it!

Several years ago, a well-known advice columnist, responded to an interesting question. A woman asked how to politely tell a relative that he offended everyone each time he injected himself with insulin. “He makes quite a production of it, tests his sugar, prepares the injection, and injects himself at the table. . . .The site of blood and injections ruins the enjoyment of the meal for those with queasy stomachs.”

Instead of emphasizing the need for understanding, Ann agreed with the writer and responded that a person who injects himself in the presence of others “exhibits gross insensitivity and very poor manners.”

It is true that some people are less courteous about healthcare behaviors, but with today’s advances in diabetes-care technology, discretion is now easier than ever.


Blood glucose meters used to be large, they required a hefty drop of blood and they took a long time to complete their task. If your blood sample didn’t cover the test strip exactly as required, you would have to repeat the test until it did. If you tested in front of fellow diners in a restaurant, they could find the process lengthy, messy and disconcerting, especially if they had an aversion to blood. Today’s meters are small, easy to hide beneath a tented magazine or in your lap, require only a tiny droplet of blood and provide a response in moments. They are convenient and enable a person to test rapidly and easily in public.


The sight of a long, shiny needle causes many people to feel faint. Fortunately, injecting insulin has also been refined and is now a quick and easy process. Gone are the days of clumsy needles and glass vials. Welcome to the world of the insulin pen. About the size of a marker, a pen contains a cartridge of insulin and uses a tiny needle. The dose is measured with a simple turn of a dial. It is discreet, and you can safely inject through most items of clothing.

Insulin pumps

If you prefer to keep your insulin needs under cover, consider an insulin pump. Worn under clothing or attached to a belt, the pump resembles a pager or cell phone. A push of a button instructs the pump to send a dose of insulin directly to the body through a slender and flexible tube.

Of course, it’s important always to be considerate of those around you, and new attitudes toward diabetes make that task even easier. The general public is now more aware of the needs of diabetics, as 21 million Americans now have diabetes and the rest probably know someone who does. Magazines like Diabetes Health provide education that can help turn shocked stares into generous smiles of support.

Even Ann Landers would be pleased.

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