Updated 02 February 2017

Health tips for diabetic teens

These are years that bring change, new friends, new schools, more social events and for diabetic teens, much more responsibility. These health tips might help you cope.


Get the right doctor. It is important that you get a doctor you trust and feel you can confide in. Many teens change at this point from a paediatrician to a doctor that treats adults. Some teens feel most at ease with someone who is reasonably young and who is the same sex as they are.

Trust those who are trying to help you. You need to help your healthcare team here – unless you are honest, no one will know how to help you manage your diabetes. Your doctor knows it is difficult to stick to diet and exercise plans and won’t be harsh with you if you slip up every now and then. Be honest – you owe it to yourself and to those who are helping you care for yourself.

Keep your self-esteem strong. Sometimes you feel awful about yourself if you do not keep your blood glucose levels steady. By all means do what you can to keep your blood glucose levels steady, but don’t link your general opinion of yourself to this single thing. There is more to you than your blood glucose levels.

Ask, ask and ask again. Never be shy or afraid that you might look stupid. Make a list of questions that you might have and take it with you to your next consultation. If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to explain it again to you. You have a right to understand.

Spilling the beans. Decide which of your friends you feel comfortable enough or trust enough to tell. It is always a liberating thing to do, when you no longer have to keep secrets. Then there will be someone there who knows why you are not having any birthday cake. Remember just to tell people in the beginning that diabetes is not contagious – chances are they know very little about the condition. If people give you strange looks because of your having diabetes, they simply don’t understand and may not be worth having as friends.

Tell one or two of your teachers. Teachers need to know about your diabetes and also need to know what the symptoms are of high and low blood glucose levels, in case they need to assist you if you appear shaky or confused. Tell someone you like and trust. If you have Type 1 diabetes, there should be some teachers at the school who are able to inject you, if necessary. You may also need to snack in their classes, lie down for a few minutes. The school also needs to keep records of who your doctor is and who to call in an emergency.

Self-esteem and diabetes. Keeping your diabetes under control reflects the fact that you value yourself. If you don’t make a big deal of it, neither will your friends – remember that they will react in the same way as they see you reacting. If you appear embarrassed, that’s the way your friends will react too. If you are matter-of-fact, that’s how they will react.

Knowledge is power. Find out as much as you can about diabetes. This is your best defence against this condition. Know what you can eat and when, when and how to test your blood glucose level, when to take your medication, how to deal with your sports participation and how to not let diabetes impact on your social life.

Accept the situation. Don’t see diabetes as a punishment. Accept that you have it and that you have to learn to find a way of managing this. There will be days you may become depressed about your diabetes – this is quite normal. If you still feel depressed after a few days, make an appointment to see a therapist.

Insulin big dipper. During adolescence, your insulin needs may fluctuate fairly wildly. Adolescent boys sometimes need as much as six times the insulin diabetic adults need, because of hormone fluctuations. Check this out carefully with your doctor.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated November 2008)


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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