Starting a new grade, new school or beginning college can be very stressful even without having diabetes, particularly during the COVID pandemic.  Some children, teens and young adults went to school virtually last year so this fall may be the first time that the student will be going to school in person in over a 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.

It’s never too early to start planning for the new school year.

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

  • Diabetes Medical Management Plan
  • 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, who monitors blood glucose and ketones, how to treat high and low blood glucose, and share it with your child’s teachers and the school nurse.

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 your child’s diabetes supplies and 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?