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Students with Diabetes: College Bound!

An off-to-college checklist focused on diabetes

It might feel like summer, but a new school year is just around the corner. For all those new college students and their families, the anxiety and excitement may be building, perhaps especially for those who are bringing type 1 diabetes along to the dorms. As a college student back in 2009, I founded the national non-profit College Diabetes Network (CDN) with the goal of making life on campus easier for students (and their families) living with diabetes. I’ve gathered some of the top “off-to-college” tips from CDN staff and current students that we hope will help make the transition to college as smooth as possible.

Before leaving

Decide how you and your family will stay in touch. Having a plan can help a student and family members communicate with each other effectively, without anyone feeling either nagged or ignored. Here are a few specifics to consider:

  • How often will you discuss diabetes with your parents or student? What topics are okay to bring up, and what will be off-limits? Who will you be checking in with to troubleshoot issues?
  • Your plan should include your diabetes care team too! Talk with your current health care team about how you will stay in touch while you are at school, and, if the college is far away from home, consider whether it might be a good idea to find a health care team closer to school.

Make a plan for your diabetes supplies. Ask yourself:

  • Who will be ordering the supplies?
  • How will they know when my supplies are running low?
  • Where will the supplies be shipped? How and where will they be stored?

Prepare a Sick Day Kit. Sometimes mom and dad are more nervous about their child leaving than the student actually is! Have them put together a sick day kit so that they feel more comfortable that you’ll be taken care of while you are away. Some suggestions include:

  • ketone strips
  • a sports drink with electrolytes
  • ibuprofen
  • a thermometer
  • diet soda
  • a card with current basal rates

(You can read more about how to handle colds and flu while living with diabetes, here.) Be sure you have at least one medical ID … that you will actually wear! If you will be living in a dorm, order a fridge ahead of time. Then confirm that it will be delivered before move-in day. And make sure that you will have storage that will enable you to have easy access to all of your diabetes supplies. Talk to your roommate! If you haven’t spoken with your future roommie yet, connect before school starts so that you know one another a little better before move-in day. If you feel comfortable, you can discuss diabetes before you get to school, too! Is there a CDN chapter or contact on campus? Email CDN’s Program Director Jo Treitman (jtreitman@collegediabetesnetwork.org) to find out! She may be able to help put you in touch with other students living with diabetes on campus!

Move-in day

Are you wearing your medical ID? My advice is you might want to put that on, because you will be lugging around some heavy boxes! Make sure that you have plenty of low supplies and a glucagon kit handy! Check your refrigerator. First, make sure that it gets plugged in as soon as you arrive; and second, make sure that it isn’t turned up too high or your insulin could freeze! (You can find more insulin storage tips here.) Scout out the closest pharmacy and grocery store, and find the easiest way for you to get there if you don’t have your own transportation. Load up on low supplies before your parents leave! Plan to register with Disabilities/Auxiliary Services on the first day of classes, and to give your professors a heads up that you are living with type 1 diabetes. By dealing with these things ahead of time, professors and administrators can help you instead of making things more complicated should an issue arise. Pop into the Health Center and see if they have any resources for students living with diabetes on campus, and if they have any particular providers to whom they send their T1D students. Our advice is to talk to your roommate about your diabetes. Most of our students have found that their roommates are more interested and curious than anything! Just remember that it is their first day too, so ease them into all of the details, and using humor might make both you and your new roommate more comfortable talking about it. Get involved! There are going to be countless opportunities to get participate in clubs, teams, activities, and more. Take advantage of everything on campus and have fun! Read more tips for college students here, and get even more resources at CDN’s website.

Christina Roth is the chief executive officer and founder of the College Diabetes Network (CDN). Christina lives with type 1 diabetes, which has fueled her passion for helping others living with the disease. Christina graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In her junior year, she founded the CDN both as a national organization and as a local chapter. Christina has been the recipient of the Bateman Family Memorial Scholarship, the 21st Century Leader Award, the Class of 1941 Humanitarian Award, as well as the UMass Amherst recipient of the “29 Who Shine” award. Christina has also worked as a research assistant at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA.

Christina is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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