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Back-to-School Basics for Diabetes Care

Students with diabetes have extra assignments to transition their diabetes care routine from summer to school, including an updated 504 plan

It’s no surprise that many of our usual habits fall to the wayside during the summer months. Vacations, beach days, and day trips are interruptions to our normal routines, so getting back into the swing of things can be difficult for those who need to manage their health on a daily basis. 

Whether you are a student with diabetes or the parent of one, the tips below will help you prepare for a healthy school season.

504 Plan in Place

  1. Your child’s 504 plan should be updated each year. 
  2. This plan along with school policies will determine what supplies your child will carry with them and what supplies will be kept in the nurse’s office.
  3. Make sure that the school nurse and staff members have a clear understanding of the 504 plan in place and their special responsibilities for caring for your child. 
  4. Your child should wear a diabetes alert medical ID necklace or bracelet and know whom to find to get help treating a high or low.

Pack the Necessary Supplies

While you’re putting together new notebooks, pens, pencils and other school supplies for your kids (or yourself!), make sure to pack the necessary diabetes management tools.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great resource and recommends creating a checklist to make sure all the necessary tools are close by throughout the day, such as:

  • Wear your CGM if you have one.  Otherwise, have a blood glucose meter with lancets and test strips
  • Your insulin pump or insulin and syringes/pens
  • Glucose tablets or a source of fast-acting carb (such as a small juice box) to quickly raise blood sugar levels in the event of hypoglycemia
  • Glucagon, either injection or nasal spray kit.
  • Ketone test strips.
  • Water bottle for healthy hydration.

Having these on hand will provide peace of mind. 

Sleep Tight

Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging if you have diabetes. On school nights, it’s important to plan for an earlier bedtime so that your body is prepared to wake up early the next morning.

Here are some tips to get the best sleep possible:

  • Avoid using electronics for an hour before bedtime.
  • Don’t allow kids and teens to check electronic devices in the middle of the night.
  • Choose only caffeine-free drinks in the evening.
  • Don’t exercise close to bedtime.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep routine, even on days when you don’t have school. 
  • Help children fall asleep easier by using a mindfulness app such as Mindfulness for Children.

Prioritize Stress Management

Transitioning back to school after a relaxing summer can be an adjustment for your physical and mental wellbeing. To stay on top of your responsibilities, it’s important to manage your stress. 

Both physical and emotional stress can trigger a rise in blood glucose levels. To combat this, create consistent testing and exercise routines once you know your daily schedule. Set a few reminders to check your blood sugar during downtime in between classes, at lunch, or before and after school activities. 

Don’t stress over a particular blood glucose reading. Try to treat it as neutral information that helps you navigate the rest of your day. Think of it as a GPS to help you understand where you’re heading and what you need to do to stay on course, versus a “good” or “bad” grade.

On top of adjusting daily routines, there are stress management practices you can incorporate into your lifestyle. Yoga and meditation can teach you mindfulness and deep breathing exercises can ease stress and help you focus on the tasks at hand. Breathing exercises can be done while you’re sitting in class and stress-relieving yoga poses can be done in between classes. 

Students can sometimes request accommodations to help manage diabetes during classes, labs, and exams. 

Don’t Forget to Exercise

After a busy day at school or an evening studying, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But skipping your daily walk or neglecting the gym for longer than you’d like to admit won’t do anything to benefit your health. 

Sticking to a consistent exercise routine can help you cope with stress while improving your health. You may not be able to exercise every day, but there will likely be some days where you have the time to do so. If you usually have more homework on Tuesdays than Wednesdays, try committing time every Wednesday for a workout. Even if it’s just going for a walk around your neighborhood or doing yoga for 20 minutes, you’ll feel the benefit of being active both physically and emotionally.

Children with diabetes should be encouraged to go outside and play, whether it’s during the school day for recess or on the weekends in the backyard. For college students, some schools offer elective classes that are exercise-focused, which is a great way to stay active while earning credit toward your degree. 

The start of a new school year is a time of adjustment. But if you commit to and stick with a plan from the beginning, you’ll be prepared for a healthy year!

This article was prepared with help from AgaMatrix

Martin is the Founder of SelfRx Media and editor-in-chief of Insulin Nation. He's a passionate about sharing knowledge with those affected by Diabetes.

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