The Highs and Lows of Going Back to School

Going back to school can be a little scary for someone with diabetes. There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to making it through the school day without having problems with your blood sugar levels. In school, we strive for that all important “A” on a test; to score 100. The same is true about blood sugar/glucose levels; the closer I come to keeping my blood sugar level at “100,” the better for my health and the better for my grades; high and low blood sugars aren’t helpful in keeping a clear, quick-thinking mind. 

So, to simplify matters, I try to think about achieving one goal; maintaining an “A” when it comes to my blood sugar levels. With that one goal in mind, I then identify the things which can affect my goal. There are two great things about school that are extremely helpful for diabetics.

  1. Schools run on a schedule. If there is one thing that can help a diabetic, it is following a routine when at all possible. This way, you can prepare in advance for things which might affect your sugar levels.
  2. Most students are carrying a backpack. For a diabetic, this is fantastic because you can have everything you need in your backpack to make it through a school day without looking different. Just set up one section in your backpack as your diabetes section and check it every morning to make sure you have everything you need. A written check list is helpful for making sure you don’t forget anything. Never go to school without making sure you have everything on the list in your backpack.

My backpack contains the following things:

  • glucose tablets (also have some in your pocket)
  • fruit juice that doesn’t have to be refrigerated
  • extra batteries for my insulin pump
  • a quarter (coin) to be able to open my pump to insert the battery
  • snacks in individual wrappers
  • a glucose monitor (always check to see if you have ample test strips) 

I don’t know about you, but for me, taking a test can be stressful. Stress has a tendency to make your sugar levels go up, so I always “back off” a little on any really high-carb foods right before an exam. I also think it is important to check your blood 10 to 15 minutes before an exam just to make sure you are close to your “A” level (optimum glucose level).  It is especially important not to try something new at school when it comes to food. Always eat something that you are familiar with and know how your insulin will react to it. You don’t need any surprise “high or low sugar levels” while you are sitting in class or taking a test, so experiment with new foods when you are at home.

I think it is important that you (or your parents for really young diabetics) personally inform each teacher that you are a type 1 diabetic. Even though you or your parents have informed the school and filled out all the paperwork to have everyone informed about your disease, trust me when I say, “Sometimes your teachers will never receive the message.” It is also important to understand that teachers today have a lot of students, and it is tough for them to remember the personal situations of all their students; especially diabetics. Our disease isn’t really visible until we start acting strange because of high or low blood sugar levels. I have had teachers think I was texting on my phone when I was just checking my insulin pump that was beeping a warning message or ask me what I was eating when I had just slipped in a glucose tablet in my mouth because I felt I was going low. It’s tough for them to remember you are diabetic. I also had a permanent Hall-Pass Card issued by the school nurse, which allowed me to go to the restroom anytime I wanted. That way, if I was stopped by a teacher in the hall, I had the proper documentation with me to allow me to proceed to the restroom.

If you wear an insulin pump, as I do, make sure you have a back-up plan should your pump fail and you need to administer extra insulin. I keep a Kwik Pen in my back-pack and change it out every 30 days to insure the insulin is good. If you are in sports, you might want to check out the article I wrote entitled, “Tyler’s Top Ten Sports Tips for Teens.” I was a four-year letterman in high school basketball, so I learned a lot about how to handle my disease while playing an extremely demanding sport. I hope these thoughts and ideas help you stay away from the highs and lows in your blood sugar levels and get you “A’s” (100’s) both in school and diabetes.

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