How To Manage Type 1 Diabetes at School: Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels in the Classroom

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Students with Type 1 diabetes learn better and are healthier when blood glucose levels are normal. Checking blood sugar at school requires planning and partnership.

Diabetes is a serious, chronic disease that must be managed 24/7. Good management includes planning for time students spend at school. In a current poll, Children With Diabetes reports that 72% of parents are satisfied or very satisfied with the care their child receives at school or at daycare. This suggests that developing partnerships among students, families and school staffs for successful diabetes management at school is a worthwhile effort.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin. Insulin is needed for the body to use the glucose or sugar from food. Everyone requires insulin to process food. Insulin is manufactured naturally in the pancreas or must be injected. Students with type 1 diabetes inject insulin.

Why are Blood Sugar Levels Important?

Students with type 1 diabetes must control blood sugar levels externally to stay within the target range. Management is achieved by balancing food intake, exercise and insulin. Monitoring blood sugar levels is critical to maintain the balance. Monitoring allows the student to eat a snack if the reading is low or inject more insulin if the reading is high. Maintaining blood sugar levels within the specified targets is essential to prevent long-term complications.

How is Blood Sugar Tested?

Blood sugar monitoring requires pricking a finger with a lancet and placing a small drop of blood on a test strip. The test strip is placed in a blood sugar meter that analyzes the strip and reports the student’s blood sugar level. Most students with type 1 diabetes monitor several times during the day. The process is straightforward and most students, with proper training, are able to test independently. Testing should be possible prior to meals, strenuous physical activity and any time the student feels “low.”

How is Blood Sugar Testing Done at School?

Schools have different policies about diabetes care, so it is important to check with the principal or health care staff about the specific school’s requirements. Students are likely to need blood sugar information in the classroom, the cafeteria and where physical education classes take place.

Students need to be comfortable when testing. Some students prefer privacy and some will feel very comfortable testing in the classroom or other public areas in the school.

Occasionally, schools are concerned about in-classroom testing because of safety concerns for the child, the teacher and the other students in the class. Information and training can overcome misconceptions and can help eliminate anxiety about in-classroom blood sugar monitoring.

Why In-classroom Monitoring?

Leading diabetes research and advocacy groups support in-classroom monitoring. Benefits for students who self-monitor in the classroom or in other locations outside the school health office include:

  • Better control of blood sugar levels because monitoring is more readily accessible and done whenever needed.
  • Time is decreased from recognition of symptoms to substantiating low blood sugar levels and treatment with a snack.
  • More time in class ensuring the same learning opportunities as other students.
  • Stigmas decrease when monitoring is treated as a regular occurrence.

Students who monitor in the classroom should have a readily accessible blood glucose meter, lancing device and lancets. A sharps disposal container, snacks and emergency glucose should also be available. Designate a safe location where the student’s diabetes supplies can be kept. Schools do not have supplies on hand.

The decision about where and when to test must be made with the student’s feelings and needs in mind. The age and maturity level of the student must be considered as well. However, the bottom line is clear – frequent, and accurate testing is absolutely essential to manage type 1 diabetes.

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