Q: This is our child’s first year of school. What supplies does the school need from us? For example, is it expected that I drop off a case of juice boxes for the teacher to keep in her classroom? Does the school nurse already have a glucometer, or do I need to buy one for her?

A: Ask any parent of a school-aged child with type 1 diabetes to show you their back-to-school shopping list, and you will most likely find that right below the pencils, notebooks and crayons are items like test strips, glucometers, lancets, bottled water, juice boxes and other items related to diabetes care. In general, parents are responsible for providing any and all blood sugar management supplies needed by a child with diabetes over the course of a typical school day. These items can include:

  • Blood glucose meter
  • Extra batteries for meter
  • Testing strips
  • Emergency treatment/medication for hypoglycemia
  • Lancet device
  • Lancets
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Cotton balls
  • Insulin
  • Syringes
  • Insulin pump supplies
  • Bottled water or refillable water bottle
  • Juice boxes and other rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates
  • Urine ketone strips
  • Manufacturer manuals for meter and insulin pump
  • Snacks

After coming up with a supply list that meets your child’s needs, check in with your diabetes care team to go over it and get their feedback. Often, a diabetes clinic will have an extra meter available to save parents the cost of acquiring one to leave at school, and they may have other tips for budgeting or cutting costs. Getting in contact with your health insurance provider is also a good idea in order to see if any medical supplies for school are covered under your plan.

Once all the needed supplies have been obtained, you will need to organize them for easy use by the school nurse and other personnel. When you meet with school staff to go over the specifics of your child’s care prior to the beginning of the year, you can make decisions about where supplies will be kept and who will have access to them.

In general, the bulk of medical supplies are typically stored in the nurse’s office; if a school does not have a nurse on staff, supplies are typically kept with a designated staff member responsible for your child’s care. Any classroom that your child travels to throughout the day should have a stash of supplies in case of emergency. To cover this, you can divide out juice boxes, water, and a rapidly-absorbed carbohydrate into pencil-case sized boxes or a zipper bag and label them with your child’s name.

As the school year unfolds, you may soon realize that some supplies, especially items like lancets and syringes, need to be replaced on a more regular basis. To make sure you receive word of depleted supplies sooner rather than later, add a notebook to your back-to-school shopping list to serve as a communication tool between home and school.

–Christina Ring, A.R.N.P., M.S.N., C.D.E., F.A.A.D.E., is an advanced registered nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator in the pediatric endocrinology department at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.


How Other Parents Deal

“Besides a packaged snack, juice, water and glucose tabs, I include with every classroom kit a sheet of paper that has my child’s name and photo on it, a list of symptoms for low and high blood sugars, and step-by-step instructions on what the teacher should do if any of these symptoms are noticed.”

–Reena, mom of 10-year-old Alex


Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.


Related topics:
Type 1 Diabetes Back-to-School Article Index
Going Back to School After Diagnosis
Set Up Your Child for a Successful School Year

See more People in the Know questions and answers >