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How to Support Someone With Diabetes

People who have diabetes may feel different because they have to keep track of things like what they eat, how many carbohydrates are in their foods, and what their blood sugar level is. It can be a lot to handle. If you have a classmate, friend, or family member who has diabetes, you may wonder how you can help. First, find out a little about diabetes and then learn some ways to be supportive. Here’s how.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that makes it hard for the body to use glucose (a sugar) for fuel. When you eat, your body breaks down food into glucose. To help glucose move into your cells, your body needs a hormone called insulin, which is made by an organ called the pancreas.

People with diabetes may have too little or no insulin. So, glucose doesn't move into cells as well as it should and stays in the blood. This makes their blood sugar get too high. People with diabetes need to track their blood sugar levels to make sure they’re in safe ranges.

What Are the Types of Diabetes?

The two main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes, which is when the pancreas can't make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes have to inject insulin every day or get it from a device called an insulin pump.
  • Type 2 diabetes, which is when the pancreas makes too little insulin or the body doesn’t respond to it properly. Some people with type 2 diabetes have to inject insulin and/or take other medicines.

There's no cure for diabetes yet. But the right treatment can help keep it under control so it doesn't interfere with school, social life, sports, or plans for the future. That's where you come in!

How Can I Help Someone Deal With Diabetes?

Learn more about diabetes. Get the facts by talking with your friend, doctor, or relatives who have diabetes. You also can read about diabetes online at reliable sites like the American Diabetes Association and JDRF.

Be healthy together. It’s easier to control blood sugar by being active and avoiding foods and drinks that have a lot of extra sugar, like some sodas, juices, and sports beverages.

Why not make healthy living a team effort? Rather than making plans to sit and watch a movie, go for a walk. At home and at restaurants, try to choose healthy foods. This can encourage the person with diabetes to eat wisely. You also might cook together and try new diabetes-friendly recipes.

Try not to nag. Don't lecture or criticize when it comes to exercising, eating, or dealing with diabetes in general. No one likes being told what to do and sometimes it can sound a lot like blame.

Watch for low blood sugar. If someone’s blood sugar level is low, you might be the first to notice because it can cloud thinking. If the person seems very tired, weak, or dazed, there could be a problem.

Say what you've noticed and ask if the person needs to do a blood sugar check or eat something to bring the level back up. If they seem really out of it, stay calm and tell an adult, like a teacher or school nurse.

Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If the person isn’t conscious, call 911.

Talk with the person about what to do before anything happens. This can include things like giving them something to eat or drink, or using medicine they may carry.

Talk about other things. It's important to listen when the person wants to talk about living with diabetes. But be sure to talk about other things too. It's important to share and talk about other experiences.

Reviewed by: Cheryl Patterson, RD, LDN, CDCES
Date Reviewed: Aug 1, 2023

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