Back to School with Diabetes | The Basics

Starting a new grade, new school or beginning college can be very stressful even without having diabetes.

So, if your child has diabetes—or you have diabetes and you’re getting ready for school—it’s  never too early to start planning for the new school year.

With a bit of forethought you can funnel your anxiety into making sure you or your children are up on the latest school fashions instead of worrying about handling your or your child’s diabetes.  Here are a few of the basics.

For Elementary, Middle or High School

Know your school’s policies. Who is permitted to give insulin in your child’s school?  For example, in Massachusetts the school nurse has to administer insulin. The nursing care plan will be included in the child’s

  • 504 Plan (that refers to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act  requiring that no one with a disability be excluded from participating in federally funded programs including elementary or secondary school programs.)
  • or IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—to qualify the disability must impair the student’s academic performance to the point he/she needs special education services) if your child qualifies for one.

Create a plan that includes emergency numbers, the child’s insulin regimen, or oral medications for children with type 2 diabetes, who administers blood glucose and ketone monitoring, how to treat high and low blood glucose, and share it with your child’s teachers, the school nurse and the principal.

Educate. Talk with the school personnel, especially teachers, the gym teacher and the nurse about the symptoms of high and low blood glucose and what to do about it.

Provide the school with a container of supplies for low blood glucose reactions and decide with the staff where the container will be kept.

Investigate the cafeteria. Review the menu—see if nutrition or at least portion size information is available.

Select a means for disposal of sharps that complies with the community regulations in your area.

Have a plan for field trips and special events. Will this necessitate a change in your child’s insulin coverage?  Will the child eat the food provided or will you send alternatives?  Who will be responsible for my child’s injections and monitoring during the trip?  For field trips ,plan to pack a travel kit with the child’s meter and testing supplies, alcohol swabs, sharps container, food, insulin and delivery device, and the child’s  medical identification.

For College

If you will be living at college, there are a number of things you need to think about.

Have you looked into finding an endocrinologist in the area or will you come back to see your local diabetes health care team regularly?

How will you get your medical supplies—is mail order a possibility?

Do you have prescriptions for your insulin, syringes, pen needles, testing supplies, ketone strips and glucagon?

Do you have a cold place to store your insulin? If you are living in a dorm, will you have a refrigerator?

Food. Are you on the meal plan or will you be living in off-campus housing?

  • If on the meal plan – does your school post nutrition information in the cafeteria or online?
  • How will you handle the late night snacking that often occurs on campus?

Alcohol. Students heading off to school are usually not of age to drink, yet many students do consume alcohol. Do you know the pitfalls of alcohol and how to avoid them?

The Personal Stuff

Are you going to tell your roommate or others that you have diabetes?

Will you keep glucagon available and who will you teach to use it?

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For more information on diabetes:

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