The Party Scene and Type 1 Diabetes: Staying Safe
Those with type 1 diabetes can, if they choose, manage one or two alcoholic beverages on a given day in conjunction with their regular meal plan.
Safety concerns arise when people with type 1 attend social events, especially into the wee hours, where the alcohol is flowing freely. The main issue is not that alcohol is dehydrating, or full of empty calories, but that it impairs the good judgment required to keep a watchful eye on blood sugars.
However, if you have type 1 diabetes you are no stranger to planning, and with a little forethought you can stay safe at parties and still have fun.
Ten Party Hearty Safety Tips
These stay-safe tips come from the Canadian Diabetes Association:
- Decide ahead of time how you will manage food, monitoring, and meds the night of a party, and the morning after. Keep in mind that drinking two to three hours after an evening meal may lead to a low the following morning.
- Before going out be sure to eat regular meals, monitor your glucose, and take your insulin/meds as usual. Never drink on an empty stomach, and swig slowly to help avoid getting wasted.
- Have fast acting carbs (e.g., glucose tablets, lifesavers, juice) with you always. This is vital when drinking since glucagon does not work when there’s alcohol in your system.
- If you are dancing or enjoying other physical activities, remember to eat additional carbs.
- Go out with someone, preferably a non-drinker who knows your low blood sugar symptoms, and how to treat them. The alternative is to inform a non-drinker at your location what your symptoms are, and how to respond.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet. You don’t want the symptoms of low blood sugar to be confused with the effects of a few beers or mixed drinks.
- To stay aware of how much alcohol you’re consuming, pour your own drinks. Stay away from fortified beverages such as brandy, ice wine, liqueurs, port, and coolers. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water or diet soda, or use diet soda in your drinks to reduce the alcohol content.
- Never tell your friends to let you “sleep it off.” When you get home, have a carbohydrate-rich snack, and tell someone trustworthy that you’ve been out drinking.
- Check your blood sugar before lying down or getting into bed, and set alarms to wake you during the night so you can monitor—delayed low blood sugar can occur up to 24 hours after drinking.
- Get up the next day at your regular time - hangover or not - to monitor, eat, and take your insulin as usual.
Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about drinking and staying safe. They know your health history and may have safety recommendations suited to your unique situation and needs.