Managing Diabetes at School
You’ve probably already bought the basic school supplies for sending your child back to school. But if your child has diabetes, you need to make additional preparations.
A person with diabetes must manage this chronic illness all the time, including during the school day. Staff such as nurses, teachers, and coaches can work with you and your child on managing diabetes. This assistance may include helping your child take medications, check blood sugar levels, choose healthy foods in the cafeteria, and be physically active.
These key tips can help your child get ready for the first day of school and for the rest of the school year.
Create a diabetes management plan with the school
- Meet with staff early in the school year to learn more about how the school helps students care for diabetes and handles any diabetes-related emergencies. Public schools and schools that receive federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against people with diabetes by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- Work with your child's doctor and school staff to create a Diabetes Medical Management Plan. Having a plan helps your child and school workers manage diabetes in school and during extracurricular activities such as field trips or sports. Include information on services the school will provide and how to recognize high and low blood sugar levels. Your child may need assistance with giving insulin and checking blood sugar levels, and also may need to eat snacks in the classroom. For more information, visit Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel.
- Give the school staff a list of contacts for your child, including physicians and emergency contacts.
Check for necessary diabetes supplies
Your child needs access to supplies to manage diabetes and to treat any episodes of high or low blood sugar. Make sure your child wears medical ID jewelry. Work with your child to create a care package to carry in his or her backpack. Supplies include:
- Blood glucose meter, testing strips, lancets, and extra batteries for the meter.
- Ketone testing supplies.
- Insulin and syringes/pens.
- Antiseptic wipes.
- For children who wear an insulin pump, backup insulin and syringes/pens in case of pump failure, glucose tablets or other fast-acting glucose snacks (a carbohydrate that will raise blood glucose levels relatively quickly when eaten). Here are examples of fast-acting carbohydrates that provide about 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrate:
- 3-5 pieces of hard candy.
- 4-6 ounces of regular (non-diet) soda.
- 4-6 ounces of orange juice.
- 2 tablespoons of raisins.
- 8 ounces of nonfat or low-fat milk.
Also, be sure school workers have a glucagon emergency kit and know how to use it if your child experiences a low blood sugar emergency.
Make sure your child can manage diabetes at a level right for his or her age
- If your child is going to monitor his or her blood sugar, ensure that he or she feels comfortable doing so.
- If a trained school employee will do the monitoring, be sure your child knows where and when to go for testing.
- Make sure your child knows who to go to for help with high or low blood sugar episodes. Outline these actions in the Diabetes Medical Management Plan.
Encourage your child to eat healthy foods
- Prepare a healthy breakfast, which will help your child stay focused and active.
- If you send a lunch with your child, pack a healthy meal that contains whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Replace high-fat foods with low-fat options, such as low-fat turkey, reduced-fat cheese, and skim milk. Include healthy snacks, such as fruit, nuts or seeds, which your child can eat later in the day to avoid the vending machine and keep blood sugar under control.
- If your child buys meals at school, look at the cafeteria menus together to help him or her make choices that fit into a healthy meal plan. Many schools post their menus online, or you can request this information from school workers.
Be sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day
- Having diabetes doesn't mean that your child can't be physically active or participate in physical education classes. In fact, being active can help your child improve his or her blood sugar control.
- Limit screen time—TV, video games and the Internet—to 1 to 2 hours a day. Being active at an early age establishes good habits for a lifetime and is a lot of fun.
- Encourage your child by being active together—doing such things as walking the dog, riding bicycles or playing basketball—and you will get the health benefits too.
Help prevent sick days
- Check to be sure your child has had all recommended vaccinations, including the flu shot. If children with diabetes get sick, they can take longer to recover than children without diabetes. Talk to your child's doctor to see if your child needs any vaccinations before starting the school year.
- Also, encourage your child to wash his or her hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
Diabetes doesn't have to get in the way of your child's good experience at school. Remember, parents and schools have the same goal: to ensure that students with diabetes are safe and that they're able to learn in a supportive environment. Make sure school staff have the information and resources they need for your child's safety and health. Help prepare your child to manage diabetes when he or she returns to school.