School is back in session, and all across the country college students are moving into their dorms. In many cases they’ll be spending several months away from home, too far away for parents to come and help. To prepare, parents and their kids are armed with packing lists a mile long. If you’re a college student with diabetes, that packing list gets longer by another mile! If you have T1D and you’re heading out to college, here’s our list of top ten items you need to add to your college packing list:
A letter from your doctor
The first piece of advice that people give college students with T1D is to register with their college or university’s disability office. Here are just some of the accommodations that you are legally entitled to request as a student with type 1 diabetes:
- Priority housing registration (to gain housing closer to campus, or to get larger dorm rooms with space for diabetes supplies and a fridge)
- Priority class registration (to enroll for classes later in the morning or not have classes during lunch, etc..)
- Ability to take breaks during exams
- Ability to reschedule exams due to diabetes-related complications
- Excused absences and the ability to make up work missed due to diabetes-related complications
Contact your college or university’s Disability Services office and become familiar with the process before school starts. To quality for accommodations, you’ll need documentation of your condition from your medical provider. Even if you think you won’t need these accommodations, you should take along documentation, because you may change your mind later in the semester.
A local doctor’s phone number
Even if you plan to schedule doctor”s visits during your visits back home, it’s a good idea to get the contact information of an endocrinologist near you. You may need to schedule a visit, and college or university’s health clinic may not be staffed with people who are familiar with type 1 diabetes. Your regular doctor may be able to provide a recommendation.
A copy of your medical prescriptions
No doubt your parents will be sending you with tons of diabetes supplies. You may even be enrolled in a mail-order pharmacy that delivers to your door. However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Take your prescriptions to your local pharmacy so that you have access to it in an emergency (you may be able to do this electronically or by phone).
Directions to the nearest emergency room
Understand the capabilities of your college or university’s health clinic. Do they have a 24-hour help line? Do they have 24-hour emergency facilities? Also, check out the medical facilities near your college or university. Take note of which facilities take your health insurance, and which ones have endocrinology departments.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to pack diabetes supplies! Make sure you have enough glucose tablets, pens, insertion sets, needles, tester strips, ketone strips, lancets, etc.. to last the semester (or plans to restock at some point).
An emergency bag
Have an emergency bag packed and ready in case you need to go to the hospital. Pack it with supplies like a cell phone charger, syringes, extra insulin, extra sets, etc.. You may also want to add a USB stick with all of your medical records. Hospitals do have shared electronic records, but it may take time to gain access. Make sure it’s grab and go so that even if you’re super duper sick, you’ll still end up at the hospital with the right stuff.
Colleges are not known for providing spacious accommodations. The average dorm room size is just 228 square feet… and chances are, you’ll have at least one roommate. Most students find it challenging to store all their stuff — and most students don’t have type 1 diabetes! Create some valuable storage space by using bed risers to lift your bed. Bed risers can give you up to 8 inches of additional vertical space. Use that space wisely and make sure you leave room for all your diabetes supplies.
“Don’t touch my low supplies” stickers
Imagine waking up to a 4:00 am low … only to find that your roommate has eaten all of your Skittles! Make sure you let your roommates know that you need a supply of emergency carbs near your bed at all times, and why. Also, store your low supplies in a labeled box so your roommates and friends (plus any random visitors to your room) know not to touch them.
A good dorm fridge is one of the best investments you can make. Your insulin is too important for you to store in your dorm’s shared kitchen refrigerator. Also, your dorm may not provide healthy food options, so you will need a fridge to store healthy snacks like veggies, hummus, avocados, milk, juice, and cheese. Keep your insulin away from the freezer section, and keep an eye out for frost on the back of your fridge. You don’t want frozen insulin!
Medical alert bracelet
Throughout your college years, you’ll be around large groups of unfamiliar people: in classes, at the library, at parties. Most of them won’t know you or your medical history, so if you happen to experience a low, they won’t know how to help — or even recognize that you’re going low. Wearing medical alert bracelet will help people identify you as a person with diabetes. This is especially important in situations where you’ve taken alcohol, because low blood sugars and drunken behavior can look very similar.
Do you have anything to add to our college packing list? Let us know in the comment section!
More college resources on Carb DM: