Editor’s note: Be sure to check out CDN's new Off to College booklets for parents and students, which covers using diabetes technology in college, and much more!
Freshman year of college is both super exciting and terrifying...and that’s without type 1 diabetes (T1D). Starting college presents a new opportunity to change everything about yourself. You are given the chance to be whoever you want to be. Chances are no one is going to know the old you anyway. Unfortunately, one of the changes that came with my college transition was a dramatic rise in my blood sugars. Luckily for me, I had started using the Dexcom two years before my first day of school. While working at a Diabetes camp, I noticed how much it helped when the campers had Dexcoms so I decided it would be good for me to try - And I haven’t stopped using it since. If you are new to college, let me caution you: there are more carbs in college food than regular food. I often joke that the dining staff sprinkle extra carbs in just to mess with the T1D’s, and even though my school has nutritional information online, it was quite the guessing game when it came to how the food was going to impact my blood sugars. Sometimes I would skyrocket, freak out, give myself a ton of extra insulin, and then plummet back down. Other times I would give just the right amount and have perfect blood sugars… until my next meal. But the worst and most frequent of all were the surprise night-time lows. I was trying to be a good college student: I was eating at a reasonable hour, working out, and doing homework, but unfortunately my body did not like that new routine and caused me to have severe lows: I was dropping below 40 almost every night in the beginning of the semester. Honestly, without my Dexcom, I’m not sure where I would be right now.
When I’m low, I don’t feel any symptoms until I hit about 45. And when I do feel the symptoms, they hit me like a ton of bricks and I cannot function properly. Even the thought of hopping out of my bed to get a snack is taxing, but because I wear my Dexcom all the time, it can tell me when I’m dropping and I can prevent a severe low. Another Dexcom feature that helped me control my blood sugars with my new routine was the Clarity Software. I was able to upload my numbers, look at the trends, send the information to my doctor, and make adjustments to my insulin within a matter of minutes. This not only made me feel better, but it also made me feel like I had more control over T1D and not the other way around.
Something else that I struggled with as a college freshman was my “diabetes identity”. I was not sure if I wanted to be private about it or if I wanted it to be a well-known fact. I believe that I found a happy medium: my close friends know and look out for me, plus I started a College Diabetes Network (CDN) Chapter, but I try not to make a big deal about it around people I don’t know well. Because Dexcom now has an app, I was able to just use that instead of carrying around the receiver that can make a lot of noise when I’m high or low (which I often am). The app also features a variety of alert options so that you can adjust the volumes, change sounds, or silence them all together. I was even able to share my numbers with my best friend so that if anything goes wrong, she will get a notification.
Another feature that allowed me to be more discreet is the FDA approval of non-adjunctive management for the Dexcom, which means that I could treat both my lows and highs by just looking at my Dexcom number; I didn’t have to prick my finger every time. Since I only have to calibrate it twice a day, I could leave my meter in my room which was so much easier than carrying it with me everywhere. Having my Dexcom made a significant impact in my college experience. Without it, I think there would have been a lot more scary and uncomfortable situations for me. I would strongly recommend Dexcom to anyone that is interested, especially college students.