7 Tips for People with Diabetes Starting CollegeThursday, August 01, 2013
High School is over and soon the summer will be a memory. Soon you will start to prepare for your college experience, pack your belongings, say goodbye to friends, and for many it will be a new experience living apart from family for an extended period of time.
For students with diabetes, it is especially important to plan ahead – with help and input from your parents - for your special health needs.
Here are 7 tips to help you get started:
1. Call the college’s student health department and ask what services they can provide for your medical needs. See if you can set-up an appointment before your orientation so you are familiar with the facility and what to do if you have an emergency. Also ask how to dispose of sharps when at school.
2. Call your health insurance provider to see what you need to do to get physician visits and emergencies covered. If you do not have your own health insurance card, get one sent to you.
3. Set-up an appointment and go see the physician that handles your diabetes at home. Come prepared to tell your physician what will be covered at student health services and develop a plan for how your home physician will remain knowledgeable of any problems that happen with your health when at school. Make sure all of your immunizations are up to date. Some students also see an endocrinologist in their college town. This is to provide a medical home for your diabetes care when at school. Ask your home town physician for copies of your medical records to give to your college providers and copies of all prescriptions. Ask what over-the-counter medications you should bring for illnesses like headaches and the flu. Ask your doctor at what point you should call for help with your diabetes.
4. You and your parents also need to set-up how you are going to receive your medications and diabetes supplies when at school. Are you going to pick them up at a local pharmacy or do you need to set-up a system so you can have them sent by mail? Make sure you pack extra supplies from home to get you started. Do not forget to bring the following:
a. Glucose gel
b. Extra meter strips, lancets and batteries for your meter
c. Ketone strips
d. Needles and a sharps box
e. If on a pump, supplies needed (also if you are on a pump and it fails, back up insulin with pens and needles)
f. If you need snacks during the day, bring a large supply of non-perishable items so you always have some to load in your backpack.
g. If your college does not supply a small individual refrigerator, bring one (review orientation material to see if extension cords are allowed). This refrigerator would be for your medication needs and not for everyone’s leftover pizza.
h. If you do not have a medical identification bracelet, get one and wear it!
5. Make an appointment with your diabetes educator. Tell them that you would like to discuss starting college. Ask to discuss items like:
c. Sexual activity
d. How to stay safe if rushing for sororities or fraternities
6. Pack an emergency kit for food supplies if you get sick. Call your dietitian to ask for suggestions. Items like individual size Jell-O cups and regular cola or other sodas as well as sugar-free beverages are items to get you started. Put these things in a sealed bag and label as emergency supplies so unknowing fellow students do not consume them. Get a copy of your sick day plan. Other sick day supplies to pack include a thermometer, extra meter strips, lancets, and emergency telephone numbers of your physician or health center in your emergency box.
7. Many colleges and universities provide contact information for the person or persons that will be your roommate(s). You may also have access to an upper-classmate advisor. You may want to call or Skype with them and discuss your diabetes. When you get to school you will want to have a discussion on what diabetes is, symptoms of hypoglycemia and how they can help with an emergency. Education about glucose gel and calling 911 is a priority. Ask your diabetes educator for handouts or information to help with your explanations.
In addition to these seven tips to help you have a successful start at college, it’s important for students and their parents to know federal laws. Some state laws require colleges to provide access to educational opportunities, including extra-curricular opportunities, without discriminating against people with disabilities, including diabetes. Become familiar with your legal rights in this regard by reviewing the American Diabetes Association's publication “Going to College with Diabetes: A Self Advocacy Guide for Students,” available here.
Good luck to you. Stay healthy and safe. Enjoy every minute of your college experience and don’t forget to study!