Everybody loves a good life hack. And they can sometimes be mission-critical when you’re living with diabetes.
Here are a few favorite (non-medical) type 1 diabetes tips and tricks from our team that may also help you in your day-to-day disease management.
ID Those Cables: Despite all the latest wireless technology, many of us are still dealing with an ever-present array of connection cables for meters, CGMs, pumps… not to mention the charging cables for cell phones, cameras and other devices from our “regular lives.” It’s easy to get confused, particularly since many of these cables look the same, and many don’t have easy to read words or marking to identify which one is which. Try taping your own little labels onto each charger and connection cable. Nothing fancy, just some paper or notecard taped on with the appropriate identifier scribbled on it.
Kick-Start Your Insulin: Hopefully you’re aware that any insulin taken just prior to exercise essentially gets “turbo-charged” with physical activity. That is, any Insulin on Board (IOB) will work up to three times more effectively depending on how rigorously you’re exercising. You have to be careful not to experience a low of course, but if you struggle with dawn phenomenon — that pesky tendency for blood sugar levels to run high when you wake up — then early morning exercise may be just the ticket. Try taking a conservative insulin dose for breakfast, and then heading out to take the dog for a stroll around the block, or ride your bike briefly, to get the insulin going a bit quicker. It works for us!
DIY Compact Carry Case: Speaking of biking and being outdoors for exercise, after all these years there is still no great product on the market for truly tiny carry case use, when all you want with you is a USB-sized glucose meter and a few test strips. So we turned to those thin Listerine breath strip containers, putting 5 or so test strips inside for a super-compact carrying option! We were worried the strip-holder might have a residual minty smell or flavor that could impact testing accuracy (who knows?), so we let the empty breath strip container “air out” for a while before using it. The container works great and fits into a pocket perfectly without making a lump in your pants. It carries just the small supply of strips one might need for a max of about 4 hours out. We also taped our finger-sized lancing device right to the container, with one piece of tape covering the cap so that it doesn’t come loose and make an unexpected jab during a ride.
Makeshift Sharps Jug: There really is no need to purchase official sharps disposal containers, that have to be replaced with yet another container just to be throw own. Try one of those thick plastic juice bottles instead. We write our own labels that say “Sharps BioHazard” to make sure it’s clear what’s inside. Just be aware that the FDA does recommend some
Quick-Grab Airport Bag: Nothing annoys us more than being “that person” in the airport security line who takes an unnecessarily long time to get through and delays everyone else. To expedite things, we put all our D-supplies into a clear plastic Ziplock bag, and make sure we’ve got our Medical Necessity Letter from our endocrinologists in there too, in case of questions. Usually it’s not an issue, but if any TSA observers do get curious, all our D-stuff is there in one place and ready for inspection. And no more scrambling separately for our meter case, glucose tabs, medical ID, extra pump battery, or backup supplies when we get to the scanner belt.
“Mad” Suitcase Supplies: In addition to the diabetes “go-bags” you probably keep in your car and laptop bags, try keeping a whole second set of D-stuff right in the suitcase that you use regularly. It’s as easy as stuffing extra pump supplies, adhesive wipes, glucose tabs, etc., into the various zip pockets of your suitcase so that even if you forget to pack very well, you always have “surprise” extras on hand. It’s kind of like keeping hidden “mad money” around just to cover for Murphy’s Law, when bad luck inevitably hits.
No Wasted Insulin: It really bothers us to waste insulin (considering the cost of it!), so we do everything in our power to use every last possible drop, even in the reservoir of tubed insulin pumps. If a pump holds 300 units, you want to be able to use that exact amount. So try to remember to always leave 10 or 15 units in the pump before going through the site and reservoir change routine. That way, when connecting new tubing, you can prime your pump and use what’s left in the old reservoir to fill up the tubing before switching to a newly filled reservoir.
OmniPod Site Change Fix: If you use an OmniPod tubeless insulin pump, you’ll appreciate this trick from Gary Scheiner’s diabetes education group. Lots of OmniPod users find they run high for the first several hours after a pod change. To counteract this, you can leave the older pod on for about two hours, to let residual insulin seep into your skin, and set a temp basal on the new pod of around +20% for those two hours. Also, to keep track of what happens during these site change periods, if you’re Dexcom user: each time you change out your pump, go into the Dexcom “Events” tab and record the site change as “Stress.” Whala! Your records will show what happened over that site change “hump.”
Exercise Temp Basal Hack: This one’sspecifically for pump users who are spin class enthusiasts. Everyone’s different, of course, but it took us a ton of trial and error to reach this formula:
• Cut your meal bolus by 50% if eating up to two hours before class. Also cut back your basal rate by 60% for 60 minutes BEFORE the class.
• For classes when starting with a BG level of 140mg/dL or higher, drink 8oz.of Gatorade or some other liquid carb at the start of class. Don’t bother with solid forms of carbs for this because they just won’t hit your system fast enough.
• Corrections after exercise — when eating shortly after exercise, use a 50% reduction of your pump’s suggested correction bolus, to be sure you don’t crash.