Type 1 Diabetes & Alcohol

Type 1 Diabetes & Alcohol are not a good cocktail…they don’t mix well. Worse than that they can be a downright dangerous, lethal cocktail. The purpose of this post is not to preach, but to prepare parents of what to expect when alcohol becomes part of their teenagers life and to give some tips on drinking Alcohol more safely for people with Type 1 Diabetes.

How old do you think your child will be when they start experimenting with Alcohol? Do you have the kind of relationship with your child that will allow them to feel comfortable telling you when they first start drinking? Maybe you think your child won’t ever drink alcohol, well that could be a very dangerous assumption, unless you plan on locking them in their bedroom till they are 45…as tempting as that seems right now it’s probably not realistic, damn it, it may even be a crime.

The truth is we have no idea at what age our kids will start drinking Alcohol, but it pays to be prepared. My son is only 12, already it’s something I worry about, especially if he goes off to university and he doesn’t have me to work at being his pancreas 24/7.

It’s worth learning as much as you can about the effects of drinking Alcohol when living with Type 1 Diabetes well before they even start. It’s also worth working on the relationship we have with our children so when the time comes they know they can tell us and we can work with them to keep them as safe as possible. Sadly this is one scenario where it won’t pay to be a strict parent where Alcohol is concerned, the last thing you want is them drinking behind your back. Approachable and prepared is the motto here.

We need to be educating our children of what will happen to their bodies, when they start drinking, and teaching them how to do this as safely as possible.

Drinking Alcohol for many people with Type 1 Diabetes causes delayed hypos, this can be many, many hours after drinking and quite possibly whilst they are sleeping off the effects, it can also cause them to become temporarily Hypo Unaware. We all know the affects of alcohol on ourselves, it can cause vomiting and lead to you sleeping so soundly you are not aware of anything. On top of this, you know the hideous orange injection sitting in the fridge that we pray we will never use, well if our children have been drinking there is a very high chance that this injection won’t work. I did tell you it was terrifying.

So besides becoming Tee Total what can people with Type 1 Diabetes do to keep themselves as safe as possible when drinking Alcohol.

1. We’re all well aware that treating Type 1 Diabetes is never an exact science and that is just as true when drinking Alcohol. Different drinks may have different effects on blood glucose, learn what your drink of choice does to your blood glucose levels over the hours. It may be worth investing in sensors like the Freestyle Libre to help you learn about the patterns.

2. I’ve seen some parents have an agreement with their children, if they go out drinking the rule is they must come home that night, this may not always be possible or practical but seems like a good rule of thumb to me.

3. I have also read that it’s recommended when drinking to reduce a bolus or not give one at all, I’ve also read that this will vary between different drinks, again it’s about learning what works for you. Remember we are trying to prevent those delayed hypos.

4. Before going to bed after a drinking session make sure slow releasing, fatty carbs are consumed, things like pizza or chips, don’t go to sleep on an empty stomach. This can help to prevent a delayed hypo, but it’s no guarantee.

5. Make sure medical alerts are worn when out of the house, should your child pass out or require medical attention it’s important that the medics are aware that they have Type 1 Diabetes, we all know that Hypo symptoms can be confused with drunkenness.

6. It may be a controversial suggestion but it might be worth practicing drinking alcohol in a controlled environment, before being let loose on the pubs and clubs. Drinking with the family or even giving in to house parties in your own home whilst you learn how to deal with the effects.

7. Where possible educate friends, make sure they are aware of the dangers of your child drinking, tell them what to look out for and what to do in an emergency.

I hope you’ve found this article on Type 1 Diabetes & Alcohol useful, at the very least I hope it’s given you food for thought. I’d also love it if any people living with Type 1, who are experienced at dealing with Alcohol would leave some more tips in our comments section below. This article was inspired by a brilliant article on Diabetes Mine, it’s well worth a read by both parents and kids, you can read it here, it also explains more on the science of drinking Alcohol whilst living with Type 1.

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