Moms and dads might have a wealth of wisdom to share with their offspring, but teens are much more likely to listen to advice from their peers than their parents. That’s particularly true for kids navigating high school with type 1, whose parents without diabetes can’t fully relate. So we recruited college students with T1D to share their top tips for teens on how to do prom, graduation parties, and concerts — while calming parents’ fears and keeping blood sugar on an even keel. “Teens with diabetes should be able to enjoy the same activities other kids participate in,” says 19-year-old Jacqueline Burke, a student leader with the College Diabetes Network and freshman at John Hopkins University. Pass these ideas on to your teen as you plan ahead for all the big events. (For more inspiration, see how other teens with type 1 and their families cope here.)


Account for Food and Fun

“I actually went to two proms and I had a great time at both of them. I adjusted my basal rate, since I knew I’d be dancing up a storm. You don’t want a low blood sugar to keep you off the dance floor. Make sure you check your blood sugar before, during, and after prom, just to be safe. Generally, there is an after-prom event as well — for me, it was at a bowling alley, and it lasted until about 5 a.m. It’s important to remember that staying up this late can have unusual effects on your blood sugar levels. There were all kinds of high-carbohydrate foods, so insulin was necessary, but it had to be adjusted as well considering I was bowling, which was a physical activity.”

–Elizabeth Kurowski, 20, St. Louis University

Accessorize Smartly

“Pack a small bag with all of the supplies you will need for the whole night. For girls, a small wristlet should work to carry your testing kit and some candy in case your blood sugar gets low. I wear an insulin pump, so I always made sure to have plenty of insulin in my pump to get through the whole night and have some extra just in case.”

–Kendall Gaspari, 19, Lilly Diabetes Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship winner, University of Notre Dame

Camouflage Your Pump

“Pump users: Buy a garter or other band-like item that can go around your upper thigh and use it to hold your pump.”

–Stephanie Burke, 23, University of Michigan


Use an App for That

“After graduation, there are often a bunch of parties with tables of food set up for you to help yourself. Counting carbs and trying to give yourself insulin before you eat can be difficult in this kind of situation. Having an app on your smartphone can really help in determining carbohydrates. At some grad parties, my friends and I also went swimming or played volleyball. Be sure to account for activities like this, because they affect blood sugar.”


Apply the Doc Test

“When going to grad parties, we all know that there’s a lot of food around, and usually most of it is not very healthy. I think it’s important to make good choices, just like you would on any normal day. It may be tempting to snack on the many bowls of chips or dessert trays that you see, but remember to keep everything in moderation, and don’t make any choices you wouldn’t want your doctor to know about!”


Account for Snacking

“Check blood sugar levels before you go to the party. Don’t worry about taking insulin for every piece of food you eat. You will likely be snacking throughout the event, so just keep a general idea of how much you’re eating. I adjusted my insulin dose so that I ran on the higher side of my range. For me, this was much better than experiencing lows throughout the graduation party. Wear a strap purse (so you don’t have to carry it) with your glucometer and glucose tabs in case your blood sugar goes low.”



Just Dance (and Dose Accordingly)

“I go to a lot of concerts! During concerts, your adrenaline can make your blood sugar rise, so you need to be aware of that. You will also most likely be dancing and singing during the concert, which can be very strenuous. It’s important to remember both of these things and adjust your insulin as necessary. Just be sure to check your blood sugar during the concert, too!”


Beat the Crowds

“When going to concerts, especially in tight, crowded venues, it’s very important to make sure that you have food and plenty of water with you if you know that it will not be readily available. Concerts can usually take up a large portion of the day, so chances are you will probably be missing the time that you usually eat dinner. If this is the case, make sure to have something healthy you can snack on while you’re waiting in line or in your seat. I usually take a protein bar or a small pouch of trail mix with me and eat a healthy, balanced meal earlier in the day so that I don’t encounter lows later on.”


Don’t Sweat It

“Get a water at the venue if possible, because it’s important to stay hydrated! And always wear your medical ID bracelet or necklace just in case of emergency. Make sure the people you’re with know you have type 1 diabetes as well.”


Most importantly … have fun!

Need more help? Download the JDRF Teen Toolkit here.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.