Leaving home for the first whether it’s for University or moving into a place of your own, it can be a daunting time.

There’s many things we take for granted when living at home such as food shopping, cooking and washing/drying clothes. We’ve compiled a few tips to help you navigate this new chapter and how to manage your type 1 diabetes when moving away from home.

1 Alcohol

University is a time to socialise and make new friends, but also they’ll be events such as Freshers week and nights out which may involve alcohol. Your type 1 diabetes shouldn’t get in the way of you enjoying yourself but here are a few tips to enjoy yourself safely.

Things to always remember to take with you:

  • Blood glucose meter;
  • Strips; Insulin;
  • Glucose tablets or sweets to treat a hypo.

If you haven’t drunk alcohol before or are not used to it, make sure to take it slowly. Perhaps start by trying out one type of alcohol with friends in the comfort of your accommodation.

Don’t feel the need to try and keep up with everyone else, no one will notice if you have had 1 drink or 5.

Top tips for type 1 diabetes and Alcohol

Alcohol such as vodka, gin and wine contain little or no carbohydrates and will not cause an increase in blood glucose. Whereas things like beer, alcopops or cider contain carbohydrates which might require insulin as they will cause your blood glucose to rise;

Test regularly whilst out as you may not be aware of your hypo symptoms; Be careful what you mix your drinks with, full sugar drinks such as coke will raise your blood glucose but diet drinks will not affect your blood glucose at all;

Ensure to test and eat once you get home after a night out.

2 Food

Now that you are in control of the food shopping, don’t fall into the trap of takeaways, super noodles and choosing to spend on other things rather than fruit and veg!

A few tips to help maintain a healthy diet

Find what works best for you, most Universities offer catered or self-catered facilities. Enquire before moving to see what they offer and which option would be best for you;

There are apps which will help you count your carbohydrates and calories so that you can monitor how much insulin you need to inject;

If you’re new to cooking, perhaps pick up a few easy cookbooks or diabetic specific cookbooks. Also ask your parents for a few cooking lessons before you move out;

Speak to your dietitian and prepare an easy meal plan you can follow even with a heavy schedule and deadlines.

3 Sleep

When moving away from home, the first thing that usually gets disrupted is your sleep. You’re in a new house, new area, new routine and often hectic schedule. With late nights and deadlines it’s important to ensure a good night’s sleep to manage your blood glucose levels.

Tips to manage your type 1 diabetes throughout the night

Always test before going to bed;

Keep your room dark and free from noise. Although on a University campus this may not be possible, if not, try a sleeping blindfold or ear plugs;

Always have sweets or glucose tablets beside your bed for easy access;

Make sure to take your long acting insulin at the correct times;

Try to have a routine of when you eat and go to bed, by having a regular routine it’ll allow you to regulate your sleep and blood glucose easier;

Test as soon as you wake up whenever possible.

4 Dealing with House Shares

A big part of University is living with other people, it can be daunting moving into a house full of strangers who you’ll be sharing a kitchen and bathroom with for the next year. It’s important to trust your new housemates and inform them of your diabetes.

Many people you encounter may not know anyone with type 1 or fully understand what it is or the effects it has. Use this opportunity to educate those around you, that way if you ever experience a hypo or hyper, your housemates will be able to notice the symptoms and help you.

Top tip from Emma about insulin

Explain the importance of keeping insulin cool, or you may end up coming back after a break to find your mini fridge has been switched off!

5 Getting the right support

Although University is a time to become independent, it’s important to have a support structure in place to assist you whilst you are studying.

Things to prepare before and after you move

When applying through UCAS, ensure you tick the disability box so that your University is aware of your type 1 diabetes and can offer you extra support;

Don’t forget to register with a new GP so that if there ever is an emergency you’ll have a team you know who can help you;

Enquire about what extra support you could receive at your University. This can be things like Disability Students Allowance (DSA) to extensions on deadlines and access to lectures online;

Student support on campus are there to support their students, let them know you have diabetes and they may be able to direct you to Uni societies or diabetes support groups on campus;

Contact your University to let them know about your diabetes. You may have already put this on your UCAS application but by contacting them directly you can ask questions about the facilities and make an informed decision whether to choose catered or self-catered halls among other things.

University is an exciting time and your type 1 diabetes doesn’t need to define you, by informing those around you and following these tips it’ll allow you to fully embrace and enjoy your time at University.

Other Resources

Talk to others with T1D. Ask questions and find support from other people with type 1 diabetes – www.diabetes.co.uk/forum/category/type-1-diabetes.19/

Hear about how Kaja dealt with being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the end of her first term at Unviersity – www.diabetes.org.uk/your-stories/type-1-and-university-kajas-story

How to eat healthy on a budget – www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/out-and-about/student-meals