University life is a big change from living at home. You’re managing your own schedule and your own life without the oversight of parents around 24/7. And while all that freedom is fun and exciting, it’s important that you still put thought and care into your diabetes management routine.
So, before you head off to university, make sure you have these five tips taken care of to make managing your diabetes at school and away from home as easy and safe as possible.
1. Check Out the University Health Center or Disability Office
If your university or college has an on-site health center or medical facility, make sure to check with them to see who, if anyone, on staff is experienced in dealing with diabetes and what types of services they offer. If your school does not have an on-campus medical facility, many schools will require you to list a local general physician. Make sure you have a medical professional close by that you can call or visit in case of an emergency or complication.
Also, even though most people don’t consider diabetes a disability, it can still be a good idea to register with the disability office since they can help assist with any scheduling complications that may arise from an emergency or a hypo that could cause you to miss a test or other important activity.
2. Coordinate How You’ll Purchase or Receive Insulin and Other Diabetes Supplies
Figuring out how you’ll get the supplies you need, like insulin and glucose test strips, is an important part of planning for your time at school. Will you be able to pick up supplies at a pharmacy nearby? Is there sufficient transportation to get there easily? If it’s going to be shipped, does the postal service or mailroom know how to (and have the capacity to) store refrigerated packages if necessary? Figuring out a plan for replenishing your diabetes supplies is a must before heading to university.
3. Check in with Professors, Resident Assistants, and Roommates Early On
A roommate will undoubtedly be privy to your daily diabetes routine, so it’s a good idea to talk to them about your diabetes and how you manage it so that they understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Also, make sure to check in with professors and any resident assistants so that they know what to do in case of an emergency in your residence hall or in class. It’s also a good idea to let professors know if you’ll need to check your blood sugar or give yourself an insulin dose during their class, so that they don’t think you’re distracted or not paying attention.
Even more important is to talk to these people about what happens in the case of a severe hypo and educate and train them on how to respond. This can be a very nerve-wracking conversation to have, especially with a roommate or a professor that you don’t know very well. However, it’s a conversation that does need to be had. The College Diabetes Network website has some great tips for talking to your roommate about T1D.
4. Scope Out On- And Off-Campus Dining Options
Food and diet is obviously a large part of staying healthy and making sure you stay on track with your T1D regimen. So, it’s always a good idea to try out the dining facilities beforehand to make sure that there are plenty of healthy meal options. Also, check to see if any restaurants outside of campus are covered in your meal plan to make sure there are places off-campus where you can dine.
A good way to prepare is to ask if the on-campus restaurants have nutritional information for their meals, since many of the dishes are served on a weekly or daily basis. That will help you determine how much insulin you’ll need to give yourself before meals.
5. Invest in a Medical ID Bracelet or Necklace
A Medical ID tag can be a life-saving addition, especially if you’re alone or traveling solo and find yourself in an emergency situation. There’s tons of great sites that offer medical ID bracelets that look like a simple piece of jewelry and won’t draw attention. Even better, many medical bracelets now offer USB storage so that vital emergency medical information can be stored inside your ID bracelet that includes medications, doctor’s information, and emergency contacts.
Going away to university should be an exciting time full of new experiences and new people. Diabetes doesn’t have to change that. So long as you make preparations and map out your diabetes management plan beforehand, university life should be smooth sailing. If you’re going to school in the U.S. or Canada, the Diabetes Hope Foundation and the College Diabetes Network are two good organisations that can help make the transition to university a great one.