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Information for Diabetics

Many students with diabetes have participated in the trip or led trips. These are a few things we have learned over the years to help you have a good week on the trip.

Tell us About your Insulin Regimen

When completing your health form, let us know about your daily insulin regimen. Are you taking insulin orally, spray, by injection, or an insulin pump? What type of glucose monitoring meter do you use? What are the temperature requirements for your medication and meter or pump? All of these things can help us place you on a trip that's in the right environment for you.

Insulin Storage

The late August and early September often leads to huge variability in temperature. We've had conditions in the low 60's during the day and up to the high 90's. Insulin storage becomes an issue at temperatures about 86 degrees. You should bring a small soft cooler with you with 2-3 of the chemical cold packs for each day. Keeping your insulin in the cooler wrapped in something like a sock (you probably don't want to cold pack to be directly in contact with the insulin) with the cold packs should keep it below 86 degrees.

Monitoring your Glucose Levels

Based on past experience some electronic glucose monitors operate within a limited temperature range. Please make sure that your monitor is rated for temperatures below 45 degrees and above 100 degrees. If not, it is possible that the device could stop functioning on the trip. This happened once to a student. We recommend that you have a back up option in the event that your meter stops working.

Adjusting your Insulin Dosages

You already have a good idea of how to manage your insulin levels with your current activity level. However, most of us don't lead as active a life as you'll encounter on the Frosh Trip (hiking or canoeing 6-8 hours a day) so you may find that you need to make adjustments in your dosage levels. For example, one participant commented that because of the activity level, she could reduce the amount of insulin that she was taking. She found that she didn't have to take any of the short acting insulin (Humalog) because of how active she was. Now, each person is different, so please talk with your doctor about the trip before going if you aren't used to this type of extended daily exercise level.

Talking to Your Trip Leaders

You know best about how you feel when your insulin/glucose balance is off. Please let your leaders know what to look for and let them know right away so that they can keep an eye out while you readjust your system.

Issues to Consider

  • Insulin Temperature – usually should be kept below 85. Bring a small collapsible cooler and 1 cold pack per day. Wrap insulin in a sock and put in cooler.
  • Glucose Monitors – some monitors have temperature limits (one was rated only to 90 F another to 111 F). Make sure monitor can withstand high temperatures. If not you will need to keep that cool (perhaps with your insulin) and/or have a backup system for checking your blood sugar in the event your monitor fails.
  • Day Insulin Doses – diabetics are used to monitoring themselves and adjusting for physical activities (sports, running, etc.). You may not be used to extended physical activity like 6-8 hours of hiking which will place a different load on your body. Talk with your doctor about how to manage this if this will be a change in your normal routine.

Comments from former Diabetic Participants

  • The trip was great. I didn't really encounter any diabetes related problems. The weather was such that keeping the insulin cool was not a problem. I did use first aid cold packs to keep it cold but they would not have been necessary with weather as it was, I simply used them because I had brought them. My meter functioned properly. Food was not an issue and there were plenty of snacks if I needed them. I have no complaints and would only recommend to future trip participants that they greatly reduce the amount of insulin that they take; I found that I really didn't have to take any of the short acting (humalog) insulin since I was constantly active.
  • I had a very good time on my Frosh Trip. All went very well; there were no problems regarding the insulin, testing supplies etc. The cold packs worked well to keep the insulin cool and I had no problems with the monitor staying cool either. Although I brought a back up monitor, I did not even use it. Unfortunately, I would say that the main problem that a diabetic could have with the trip would be the weather. If it had been very hot, I might have had problems with the insulin or the blood glucose meter overheating and malfunctioning. Overall, though, my experience was great. Not only were there no problems with the insulin or the meters, but my control of my blood sugars was fairly good, under the circumstances, and the leaders and other campers were very supportive. I had a very good trip and would recommend it to any other diabetic who was uncertain about going.  
  • I had a great time on my Frosh Trip and I'm still in contact with many of the people in my group. My diabetes was not an issue at all, and I found that on average my blood glucose levels were much easier to control. It seemed like my body was more lenient with me because I was so active! My insulin pump was fine the entire trip, being very durable. I did have to move my pump site slightly more often, mostly due to the activity [the tape that keeps the site down would lose its adhesion because of sweat, rubbing, etc., but it still stayed on fairly well]. I kept all my supplies in a zip-lock bag and they fared perfectly. I kept my insulin with the rest of my supplies, and tried to keep them insulated with some clothing in my pack, but I've never had much of an issue with insulin going bad [especially in time as short as 6 days]. I'm not positive but I somewhat recall that rDNA origin insulin, which I think is pretty much everything, is hardier than the old beef and pork insulin they used to use, so keeping it refrigerated is not such an issue anymore. For other students, glucose testing often is a must, so low blood sugar doesn't hinder the group. In my experience it hardly made a difference, since there are frequent breaks during which a student can easily test, and things like changing a pump site is quite easy if done while at camp. I sat on my sleeping mat and kept my supplies there whenever I took them out of the bag, so they never got dirty. Overall, I had very few problems with my condition. However, I have been diabetic for nearly sixteen years and I have had my insulin pump for more than three, so additional care might be warranted for other, less experienced students, particularly new diagnosees [under one or two years, I would say]. Thanks for your efforts in making OA such a great trip!