High school brings with it a host of issues to discuss with your teen/adolescent with type 1 diabetes. Keeping an open dialogue about important issues can enable your teen/adolescent to take more control of their diabetes care. During this pivotal life stage, when your teen is most likely ready for more responsibility, laying the groundwork so that she has the tools and knowledge to become increasingly independent is critical. The knowledge and support she gets now will also serve her well for years to come.
Here are three areas that deserve discussion with your diabetic teen:
High school sports can be very intense, and while your teen/adolescent can participate, he or she needs to know how often to check blood glucose levels during games or matches, what to do if they’re low, and even the basics of how exercise affects their body. They also need to know how to adjust their medications to reduce the risk of low blood glucose.
A good general guideline is to test blood glucose levels before and after all practices and games. If the practices or games will be greater than two hours, it may be a good idea to test blood glucose levels mid-way through the event. Testing blood glucose levels mid-way through a game or competition can help you understand how this activity affects blood glucose levels. Then you can work with your healthcare professional to come up with a plan. For example, if the blood glucose levels before practice are 187, but the blood glucose level mid-way through is 93, this tells us a snack may be needed before practice to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.
It is possible that your teen will drink in high school, even though they are not supposed to. However, since they have type 1 diabetes, alcohol can affect them in a different (and potentially dangerous) way. Talk to your teen about how alcohol interacts with her body (always, of course, with the caveat that they shouldn’t be drinking before it’s legal). It may also be a good idea for you to talk to their healthcare professional to make sure this is discussed during one of their quarterly visits. They may need strategies in place to help them avoid peer pressure—when all their friends are drinking at a party, how will they say no?
Your teen needs to know that there will be times when he or she can’t drive because their blood sugar levels are too low. What is too low? How do they feel when they’re too low? What should your teen do should he find himself driving while experiencing a drop in blood sugar?
Help your teen build a plan for driving safely—which includes knowing when they shouldn’t drive. It is also important for them to know that driving is a privilege, not a right. Many states require a medical report form to be filled out by their healthcare providers to confirm that a diabetic teen is safe to drive a motor vehicle. The American Diabetes Association offers a helpful guide “Drivers License Laws by State” that spells out what individual states require of drivers with a medical condition that may impair driving.
By late high school, your teen is much more independent In their junior or senior year. They generally should be able to attend appointments on their own (or at least a portion of them without you). Of course, whether or not your teen is willing and able to handle these appointments on her own depends on her maturity and comfort level. Getting your teen ready to leave home to go to college or into the workforce after high school is a big process. By taking advantage of the “teaching moments” that come your way during high school, you can help prepare them for good diabetes control later in life.