School and Diabetes
You probably spend about 6 hours or more at school each day — more than one third of your waking hours. If you have diabetes, chances are you’ll need to check your blood sugar levels or give yourself an insulin injection during that time. So how do you deal with diabetes at school?
Talking to Teachers and School Staff
Maybe you just found out you have diabetes. Perhaps you’ve been living with it for a while but switched to a new school. Your first step is to let school staff know.
Set up a meeting with your school principal’s office. Your mom or dad should be there, and you may want to suggest the school nurse join you.
Give your school nurse, teacher, and principal’s office a copy of your diabetes management plan. This plan talks about what you will need to do during the school day, like test your blood sugar, give yourself injections, or eat lunch at a certain time each day. Your diabetes management plan also contains contact info for your doctors and diabetes health care team, so the school will know how to get in touch if you’re sick.
Some schools might work with you to create a special plan for managing your diabetes at school. This may mean letting you eat lunch a little early or having a school nurse help with insulin injections if you need it.
Tell your teachers. When your teachers know what needs to be done, they can schedule time for you to do stuff like test your blood glucose levels or get shots. Some teachers don’t allow you to eat in class, which is why it’s good to let your teacher know what’s going on.
Ask to meet your teacher before or after class to talk about what you might need to do. If teachers know you have diabetes, they can watch for symptoms of diabetes problems and can call for medical help if you need it.
Teachers are busy. You might need to remind them once in a while about what you have to do to take care of your diabetes. If you have a substitute teacher, let him or her know that you have diabetes and may need to do things like go to the bathroom or get a snack.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to teachers or school staff about your diabetes, write a note or letter that goes over what you’ll need to do to take care of your diabetes.
Get to know your school nurse. At many schools, students with diabetes need to get their diabetes medicines or test blood sugar levels in the nurse’s office. Most schools won’t let students carry needles or medications with them. Don’t let that worry you, though. Even in an emergency, the extra time needed to get to the school nurse won’t cause a problem.
Taking Care of Diabetes at School
Keep a stock of medications, testing equipment, and other supplies at school. You’ll need the same supplies and equipment that you use at home. You’ll probably need to keep these in the school nurse’s office, but your school may want you to store them somewhere else. Ask the principal’s office what your school’s policy is.
Keep a copy of your diabetes management plan with you. Even if your school has your plan, it’s good to keep one in your purse, backpack, locker, or car as well. If you run into any diabetes problems at school or start having symptoms of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, do what your plan tells you to do. That may mean having a snack, checking your blood glucose levels, or heading to the nurse’s office — whatever your plan says.
Prepare to handle different situations. What if the school nurse isn’t in? Is there someone else who can help? Who do you call if something unexpected happens — your doctor or your parent? Which kinds of problems can wait until after school and which ones should you handle right away?
Ask your doctor what you need to know about managing diabetes in school and how to handle special situations. Write down what you should do and who you should go to and keep this information with your management plan. Knowing what to do can help you feel more confident if you do have a problem at school.
Talking to Friends and Classmates
It’s your call whether you tell friends and classmates about your diabetes. If they know, it can mean less worry for you about what they think when they see you doing things like leaving class to go to the nurse’s office for a blood sugar level check.
But what about teasing? Some kids will tease anyone who seems the slightest bit different from anyone else. If this happens to you, you’re definitely not alone: About 1 in 3 kids and teens with problems like diabetes have had to deal with bullying.
What can you do when people tease you? Get your friends’ help to remind people that diabetes is no big deal. Ignoring a bully is a good strategy too. Bullies thrive on the reaction they get, and if you walk away, you’re telling the bully that you just don’t care. Sooner or later the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
It may also help to talk to a guidance counselor, teacher, or friend — anyone who can give you the support you need. Talking can be a good outlet for the fears and frustrations that can build when you’re being bullied.
Whatever happens, though, don’t try to hide your condition by skipping treatments or eating foods that aren’t on your meal plan — it’ll just make you feel worse and risk getting sick at school.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013