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How to prepare a student with diabetes for college

Students.With college come late nights, new friends and new temptations, some of which can be dangerous for students with diabetes. But risks can be minimized with proper preparation.

"I really believe that  kids can go to college wherever they want to go to college -- if they have a plan," says Irene Sills MD, professor of pediatrics in the Joslin Diabetes Center at Upstate.

Listen to Irene Sills MD on Health Link on Air radio,

airing at 9 a.m. Aug. 14 on WSYR FM-107.9

That plan includes knowing how to get to the nearest emergency room and understanding what services are provided by the campus health facility. Which is the best place to go for intravenous fluids or emergency insulin? Is the answer the same at 9 a.m. as at 2 a.m.? "It's a matter of knowing where you would go if you were vomiting or couldn't keep your food down," she says.

Preparing for life away from home can start during adolescence. Sills says many girls can start giving their own insulin injections around age 10 1/2, and many boys at about 11 1/2, depending on maturity levels. They can start taking control of their disease by learning what insulin they take and how it works, and by being familiar with when they need to get to an emergency room or a pharmacy.

Sills says previous generations of diabetics had to carefully monitor sleep habits to coincide with insulin peaks, but students with diabetes today use insulin that allows for greater flexibility.

Social drinking is one aspect of college life that concerns Sills. Alcohol, especially in large quantities, throws off blood sugar levels and can be deadly for someone with diabetes. She said abstaining from alcohol is the best strategy, but if someone with diabetes is determined to drink, she says it's important they not drink to excess.

She says it's also important that roommates are aware of diabetes and learn what to do in emergencies -- and how to recognize emergencies. For instance, someone with diabetes who appears to be oversleeping needs to be checked to make sure they are not unconscious. A drawer or cabinet should be set aside for the person with diabetes -- and off limits to others -- so that medications, liquids and a thermometer will always be available if needed.

For female students who are sexually active, Sills says birth control is a must.Women with diabetes who want to become mothers must maintain normal blood glucose levels just before and during the first three months of pregnancy to help assure proper development of the baby.

For both male and female students with diabetes, Sills advises that mental health services be available for various issues that arise. "They live with a chronic noose around their necks."

Hear Sills' interview on Health Link on Air radio.

Make plans to attend a Health Link talk with Dr. Sills and Kathy Bratt, NP

from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept 28