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Daily challenges of living with diabetes: school, sport, and work

by IBD Medical on February 28, 2024


Diabetes Solutions  - Type 1 diabetes

Whether you are a teenager or a retiree, adequate management of diabetes is an ongoing challenge requiring effective daily adaptations. Regardless of age, immediate responses to a diagnosis can be frustration; frustration for the necessary changes in lifestyle, fear of lancing or pricking, or anxiety to tell friends or family. So how can you tackle the challenges associated with managing diabetes at school, work, and sport?

Children at school

In Australia, there are around 11,000 school-aged children living with diabetes. Whilst adolescents and teenagers are able to fulfil their support requirements, primary-school aged children with diabetes are more reliant on teachers and nurses to aid in stabilising their condition. Appropriate plans are necessary as a child’s ability to learn is immediately compromised when unstable blood glucose levels are ongoing. 

1. Teach your child the new school management routine - Given their age, children are more likely to struggle with an emotional reaction to their condition. Your child may not understand the importance of managing their diabetes and may feel embarrassed at feeling different from their peers, so it is important that a school routine for monitoring and care is established. Teaching your child how to measure food intake, inject insulin and recognise fluctuating blood glucose levels may be vital. Some children may be eligible to receive a free or subsidised blood glucose monitoring device; to access whether your child meets the criteria, click here.  Diabetes Australia remarks that it is important that your child knows that they have a right to administer care in a private or public setting and that it is the responsibility of the school to provide a sanitary space. Diabetes Educators should also be relied upon to help your child adjust to these changes. Some children may prefer to be discreet about their condition whilst at school, and there are things that you can do as a parent to assist this. Glucology™ Sharp bins are compact and safely conceal test strips, needles and lancets and so are perfect for discrete condition management.
2. Design your child’s school diabetes management plan with the school administration - Whilst at school, staff are responsible for ensuring children’s safety. So, in order for understanding to be fully established, it is important that medical, non-medical school staff and your family work together to agree on a diabetes management plan whilst your child is under school care. Considering that non-medical school staff are not typically trained in helping a child with diabetes, using a ‘communication book’ can be handy. Your family can note down management tips to remind teachers of care actions, whilst the teacher can record any diabetes-related concerns your child had at school.
British psychiatrist D rrGaudieri argues that the unique challenges of having a child with diabetes are important to be addressed to avoid impeding on a child’s physical and cognitive development whilst ensuring that appropriate lifelong habits are developed.

Teenagers playing sport

It is well-known that exercise should be an important part of the daily routine for everyone, regardless of whether you are living with diabetes or not. Yet, for teenagers in particular, appropriate diabetes management strategies when playing sport is important. During exercise, the muscles release extra glucose for energy yet if there is not enough insulin released to absorb this glucose, this can result in high blood sugar levels and hyperglycemia. Contrastingly, keeping active can cause a dip in blood glucose levels or hypoglycemia. Teenagers going through puberty in particular are more sensitive to insulin levels, with insulin response up to 30% lower than children and so effective control is imperative. Whilst exercising it can be challenging to keep insulin at an appropriate temperature.

1. Keep the snacks handy - Teenagers who have been living with diabetes for a while most likely understand when their blood sugar levels are unstable. Symptoms such as weakness, having a headache and hunger may be present. It is advised that if exercising for longer than an hour, keeping some snacks on hand, like an energy bar or fruit, can help avoid adverse blood glucose levels.

2. Wear an active medical identification bracelet  - No matter how long you have had diabetes for, unforeseen ill-health is a continuous potential lingering threat. Dr Grossman from Joslin Diabetes Centre asserts that Medical ID bracelets are able to speak for you when you are unable to. Given the risks associated with playing sport for people living with diabetes, wearing appropriate jewellery alerting others to your condition is necessary. The sooner the issue is identified, the sooner solutions can be implemented. In Australia, there are numerous vendors in which medical ID jewellery can be purchased from and it may be subsidised in part by Medicare or your private health insurance.

In teenagers in particular, the risk of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia is elevated when exercising and dependent on the type and duration of the activity. However, exercise physiologist Dr Colberg strongly advises that “a chronic disease can have a negative influence on how teenagers view themselves, but being physically active may help counteract that by increasing self-confidence”. 

Adults at work 

Like with any pre-existing medical condition, inadequate management of health can result in long absences from work or adverse productivity. Consequently, there is an unfavourable reputation in which employers don't understand diabetes and employees are discriminated against. Subsequently, it is important that employers are aware of your diabetes and understand your management plan. For example, so that appropriate shifts can be planned around the timing of administering medication.
1. Keep all your necessary accessories in one place at work - Ensuring that all your diabetes-related equipment are kept in one location at work is important not only for your own ease of access but also in case of emergencies when others around you may have to administer care. 
2. How to communicate your condition with colleagues - Like with any chronic illness, there is a strong sentiment among employers that this equates to loss of productivity. Although most workplaces do not legally require disclosure, depending on your management requirements and to avoid discrimination, it is important that colleagues understand your condition. Yet, bringing up this conversation can be intimidating. Primarily, your Diabetes Educator or medical professional team can help you devise a plan to adequately communicate relevant details. Communication is the first step to avoiding discrimination. 

The content of this Website or Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website or Blog.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 (in the US) or 000 (in Australia) immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care. 
1 comment
by Mrs. A. Karazinov on July 26, 2018

I like reading your articles, ’cause I am type 2 n I really lookafter myself. I saw my doctor few days ago, had my blood test n went back for the result, everything under control.


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