Before Leaving Home: Tips For College Students With Type 1 Diabetes

In a few weeks college students will be heading-off to their chosen campuses, including more than 7,000 freshmen with type 1 diabetes.

If you are a new college student with type 1 diabetes you may already be an old hand at controlling your glucose levels, so by planning for the unpredictability of campus life you can well manage your diabetes away from home.

Planning Tips

Here are some planning suggestions from a physician, Dr. David C. Mellinger, who has experience assisting university students with diabetes:

    Doc Visit. It’s recommended that you meet with your primary physician or endocrinologist a few weeks before school starts. The meeting would be a review of your medical care, and to discuss issues relevant to living in a college environment.

    At this meeting, request copies of your medical records, and ascertain what relationship you will have with your doctor while at college. The clinician and yourself will, ideally, set up an introductory appointment with the college’s health department. It’s also important to determine what level of care can be expected from the college health facility, and plan accordingly.

    Supply List. You’ll likely remember to pack diabetes supplies used daily, such as your meter, monitoring strips, syringes (or pump), insulin, and alcohol wipes. Supplies often overlooked are things like sharps containers, or ketone test strips. Other items that should be on your packing checklist are quick sources of glucose, glucose gel, a copy of important phone numbers, insurance cards, and Medic Alert identification.

    You may also want to prepare a kit to use in case of illness. The kit would contain ketone strips, approved OTC medications (e.g., sugar-free cough drops), a thermometer, nonperishable bland foods and liquids (e.g., Saltines, broths, juice, sugar-free drinks), and a copy of your sick-day plan.

    Since items can easily become lost or broken, and your parents won’t be available to run out for replacements, it’s wise to pack more supplies than you anticipate using.

    Insurance Check. It’s important that you and your parents check insurance policies for any medical or prescription coverage changes owed to your living away from home, especially if you’re going out of state.

    Financial Aids. Many scholarships for students with diabetes are unadvertised, and can go unused if no one applies. These scholarships are typically, but not exclusively, for those who are uninsured, or in financial hardship. It can pay to do an Internet search for diabetes-related scholarship opportunities, plus see what’s available locally, and at your university.

    To help defray the cost of meds and supplies, some students may qualify for assistance programs offered by most pharmaceutical companies. These programs are especially helpful for students no longer dependent on their families.

    Med Adjustments. Since college class, meal, and snack times can vary day to day, it’s critical to review your insulin regimen. Most students benefit from a plan that is highly flexible. For instance, students might use a very long-acting insulin in combination with a rapid-onset, short-acting insulin, or decide to use an insulin pump if not already on one. Preferably, you can make a regimen change a few weeks before school, giving yourself time to become familiar with the plan.

    If you’re reluctant to alter an insulin regimen that’s worked for you, see whether it continues to work once you’re on campus, and then decide if a change would be beneficial.

Starting college is challenging for most students, but can be even more so for those living with a chronic illness such as diabetes. Anticipating the lifestyle changes, and planning for them won’t eliminate the challenges, but may make them easier to manage.

Source: Diabetes Care / American Diabetes Association
Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360

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