Practical Suggestions

woman hiking

Always be prepared.

You never know if you are going to get an unexpected low blood sugar, or be delayed getting back home. So carry the essentials with you – such as in your pocket, purse, or backpack.

Here are some practical tips to help you live safely with diabetes

  • In an emergency, people need to know that you have diabetes. Wear some form of Medical Alert.

    Medical Alerts come in many forms. Choose and use a bracelet, necklace “dog tag”, or watchband. In case of an emergency, it is important for Emergency Medical Personnel to know that you have diabetes.

  • Keep Emergency Contact Information in your purse or wallet

    The information should be names and phone numbers. You also may want to include addresses and email addresses.

  • If you are treated with insulin or medications that cause insulin to be released from your pancreas, carry diabetes testing equipment, sugar or dextrose tablets and insulin or medications with you at all times.

    Always be prepared to check your blood sugar, treat a low blood sugar, or take medication. You never know if you are going to get an unexpected low blood sugar, have an unplanned meal or snack be delayed getting back home. So carry the essentials with you – such as in your pocket, purse, or backpack.

    Low blood sugars should be treated immediately by eating or drinking something with sugar. If you are having a low, you don’t want to lose time finding something to eat. The delay in treatment could result in the blood sugar becoming dangerously low and cause you to become confused or even pass out.

    Don’t forget to bring your mealtime medications along as you might have an unplanned meal or snack. And if you are taking insulin, make sure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold as you are traveling around or it will lose its strength!

  • Know when to test for ketones:

    Check blood or urine ketones if you have:

    1. An unexplained high blood sugar
    2. Persistently high blood sugars
    3. Nausea or vomiting

    If you are not feeling well and have moderate or high ketone levels, this is a medical emergency and you should seek urgent medical care.

  • Assemble your team of medical providers

    It is important to have regular follow up with your diabetes team including your diabetes doctor, eye doctor (ophthalmologist), dentist, and foot doctor (podiatrist). Sign up for Diabetes Classes – it may be one of the most life changing school experiences you will ever have. Diabetes Nurse Educators, Nutritionists and Pharmacists will teach you about diabetes self management strategies, and the principles of nutrition and the different medication options.

  • Ask your medical provider for a list of your medications, including insulin doses – and keep the list with you!

    If you can’t remember how much medication or insulin to take you can refer to the list. Also when you visit other medical providers, they will want to see the list.

  • Being sick with diabetes can be confusing

    This link provides general guidelines about what to do when you are sick

  • Travelling safely with diabetes is all about having everything you need with you plus back up supplies.
  • Driving and Diabetes

    Both you and your medical team have a responsibility to ensure that you are driving safely. Find out the regulations in your state and where ever you are travelling. Discuss target range blood sugar levels for driving with your medical provider. Always keep your blood sugar testing meter and rapidly absorbed carbohydrate or sugar readily available in your vehicle. Remember to check your blood sugar before driving and pull over and check as needed throughout the trip.

Check the links below for more information.

  • How to avoid common mistakes

    You can learn from other peoples’ mistakes. Here are some ways to avoid common mistakes.

    If you are taking insulin:

    1. Mark your insulin so you clearly know which is long and which is short acting.Some people use a colored tape, rubber band or magic marker to flag the different formulations. You don’t want to take the short acting insulin thinking it is long acting by mistake – or visa versa.
    2. Take your short acting meal time insulin right before eatingAlways eat immediately after taking the short acting insulin. When eating out, wait until the food has arrived at the table to take the insulin. (And never take the insulin at home and then drive off to the restaurant or somewhere else to eat – this mistake can cause severe low blood sugars.)
    3. Use separate syringes or pen needles for the long and short acting insulins.The newer analog insulins cannot be mixed. So if you are using insulin glargine or detemir, you should not mix it with the rapid acting insulins lispro, aspart, or glulisine. This includes not contaminating the vials with another kind of insulin solution – so use a designated syringe or pen needle for each different type of insulin
    4. Change your insulin bottles every month – even if the insulin is not all used upOnce an insulin bottle is opened, it loses effectiveness after about a month. Don’t use weak insulin; change to a new bottle.
    5. Keep your insulin in a stable temperature.Insulin becomes less effective if it is too hot or too cold. This is a problem if someone lives in a very hot climate or is travelling in a hot climate. You may need to keep the insulin in a cooler pack. Check what is available from diabetes supply vendors.
    6. Be prepared to reduce your insulin and/or eat more when more active and exercising.Increased activity and exercise usually lowers your blood sugar, and you will need less insulin around the time of the activity. Even activities such as walking, cleaning, shopping, or gardening can have a big impact on your blood sugar. Follow this link to find out more about exercise
    7. Develop a system to document that you have taken your insulin – including which kind of insulin.You don’t want to give your insulin twice, or have not taken it at all. Recording your dose such as in a logbookor on your cell phone is an excellent way to verify that you received the insulin.You may prefer a different system, but point is to document the dosing so you know what you actually have done.

©2007-2014 Collective work Martha Nolte Kennedy,
The Regents of the University of California.
All rights reserved.