Tuesday Talkback: How to support a Scout with diabetes

Tuesday-TalkbackA Scout with diabetes lives life on a balance beam.

He must balance insulin injections (or continuous infusion via a pump) with his diet and physical activities. He must prick his finger six or more times a day to check his blood-glucose level. And even in spite of that constant attention, he still runs the risk of dangerously high or low blood-glucose levels at any time.

It sounds daunting, and it is. But even amid all the challenges of living with Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes), many Scouts and Venturers (and Scouters) with the disease find a way to thrive in the program.

Scouts, Venturers and Scouters with Type 1 diabetes hike at Philmont, sail at Sea Base, paddle at Northern Tier and attend national jamborees — not to mention participate in outings every weekend across the country.

Turns out these young people are no different from the other members of their troop, team, ship or crew. And by educating yourself about Type 1 diabetes, Scouters like you can make these Scouts and Venturers feel even more welcome.

How can you support a Venturer or Scout with diabetes? That’s the subject of today’s Tuesday Talkback. I’ll share some tips from Scouters below. Then I urge you to keep the conversation going in the comments.

How to support a Scout with diabetes

These ideas come from your fellow Scouters on Facebook. Thanks to everyone who shared.

  • “My son is a Type 1 since December 2011. He has gone on a number of campouts including Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier High Adventure, and Philmont Scout Ranch. At Philmont Scout Ranch the pump was great. He could adjust as he needed or shut off delivery while hiking. Our best tip is to pack extra protein and sugar-based snacks. Also, remember insulin is a bear attractant so all of your gear needs to go in the bear bag at night.” – Tahnya U.
  • “My son is 18, diagnosed at 8 with T1D. He is an Eagle Scout, he’s been to two National Jamborees, 100-plus overnight campouts. He wears a pump and keeps snacks handy. We have educated everyone around him on what to watch for. We gave a great support system in our troop. Anything is possible as long as you are ‘prepared.'” – Dana O.
  • “I was diagnosed at 15 as a Venturer and eventually earned my Silver and Ranger awards. My best advice is to not let T1D hold you back from doing anything you want to do, T1D only makes us stronger and we can do anything we set our mind to!” – Rebecca S.
  • “I have a Scout with an insulin pump. I just make sure he has food on hand, is taking his insulin correctly, and that’s it. He is no different than the rest of the crew and a part of the team!” – Doug T.
  • “Make sure you have a plan with your doctor. Blood sugars are harder to maintain while out in the woods. And it is important that you have a plan in place. Make sure you have extra supplies with you. Test your blood more often. Make sure your leaders and other boys understand how to notice signs of low blood sugar and encourage them to speak out if they notice any of those signs. Sometimes others will start to notice signs before you do.” – Curtis G.
  • “First make sure your leaders know that you have it, how you deal with it and any other important medical facts. Educate the leaders on how to deal with type 1 or 2 diabetes, symptoms to be aware of, how its treated (insulin, pills, testing). I was a leader with type 2 so I was aware. Bring in a local RN who is a diabetes educator to educate the adults.” – George G.
  • Find each other and band together. Don’t let the disease hold you back there are workarounds even for Philmont! My daughter is type 1 and is our district president of Venturing. Two of her friends that are also type 1 hold council and area positions and have worked staff camps. Glucose tabs are your friend. Water proof bags for supplies. Extra meters a must.” – Brandi U.
  • “My son is T1, 15, so right in the thick of Scouting right now. The key is a lot of testing, knowing his levels. Activity usually causes less insulin needs so we carry extra sugar sources. GU and PowerShot are great, they are fast, and drop in pockets easy to have on hand. We equip his buddies with sugar too, just in case. They get to learn about the disease and how to help him in an emergency. Carry glucagon on hand. We have had some scary situations, but cool heads and preparedness went a long way.” – Jennifer S.
  • “The one thing that I can suggest is that you should not expect all leaders in the troop to be comfortable with caring for your child. There are a few that will be eager to learn how to properly care for your Scout, while others will be terrified at knowing the seriousness of the disease. There are ways to work through these challenges by making yourself available for campouts until you feel comfortable leaving your child with the leaders of your troop for an extended period of time.” – Brandon M.
  • “Happily, insulin no longer requires refrigeration, but it can’t get too hot or cold either, so get a rugged case, keep an eye on your sugar when doing unusual (for your body) activities, carry emergency sugary items and longer-acting carb items like granola, and have fun. Keep notes as to how your body reacts to heat, cold, hard hiking, etc.” – Bob F.

Help wanted

Do you know a Scout or Venturer with diabetes? Share what works to make sure he or she thrives in Scouting. Leave a comment below.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.