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College-bound Part 2: Caring for your Diabetes Away From Home

After you’ve made the necessary preparations for proper diabetes management in college, there are important things to think about to ensure your life in college with diabetes is as safe and normal as possible.

Important Items for Your Dorm

Making sure you have the right diabetes supplies in your room and around your dormitory is something to constantly be aware of.  It’s also a good idea to keep:

  • A list of emergency contacts
  • A mini fridge in your room to store your insulin and hypoglycemia treatments
  • A safe box or drawer to keep all of your diabetes supplies, including ketone strips
  • A sharps container to dispose of your needles and lancets

In addition, consider leaving an extra supply of insulin, syringes, and a glucagon kit with your Resident Assistant, in case of an emergency.  For students using an insulin pump, be prepared for “pump failure” with a back-up plan using basal and rapid acting insulins.

Staying Safe in the Social Scene With Diabetes

If you’re of age and choose to drink, it is especially important when you have diabetes to stay safe throughout the excitement of college nightlife.  Understand alcohol and its affects on your blood glucose levels and be responsible.

Eat a healthy, hearty meal before going out and let at least one friend know what to do if you’re experiencing a low blood glucose reaction.  Symptoms of lows can often be mistaken for being intoxicated, so it’s important someone know.

“Never drink until the point where you’re impaired and can’t take care of your diabetes,” says Lori Laffel, M.D., Joslin’s Chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Section.

Adapting to College Life With Diabetes

Since your schedule will be changing, Dr. Laffell says it’s important to discuss with your health care team, if you should alter your diabetes treatment routine for college life.  Don’t let your new independence let you slip into poor diabetes management.  “Start good habits early when you first get to college,” she says.

  • Always keep diabetes testing supplies and glucose tablets with you
  • Maintain a healthy diet by getting nutrition facts from the dining hall manager
  • Keep up your regular fitness routine – your college fitness facility is likely free!

Managing your diabetes in college doesn’t have to be hard or take over your life.  It also doesn’t mean you get a free pass to lose control of your diabetes, because you’re gaining independence.  Stay safe and responsible, and you can enjoy life away from home just like anyone else.

Page last updated: September 18, 2019