Saturday, November 20, 2010

Diabetes Etiquette!

So, say you meet someone for the first time and you find out they have diabetes, or someone in your family is suddenly diagnosed with diabetes. What should you say? What should you do? What shouldn’t you say or do?

Occasionally, as a person with diabetes, you can encounter people who might say some rude things. Usually, people don’t even know they’re being rude, and most comments that could potentially be offensive arise because people aren’t educated about the causes of diabetes or how people with diabetes actually treat themselves. (But YOU are, now, since you’ve been reading my blog!)

For example, when I was a kid, and was first diagnosed, a lot of people used to say to my parents “Wow! You must have fed her a lot of sugar when she was little”. Um, no. (See “Diabetes Myths” post!)

Now that I’m an adult, when people find out I have diabetes, I sometimes get “Oh, you must have lost a LOT of weight!” Also, no.

So, I’m passing along some diabetes etiquette, so you can all know how to help those in your life with diabetes, and so you can also know when to butt out.

I’m taking my list from The Behavioral Diabetes Institute’s Diabetes Etiquette Card for people who don’t have diabetes. It’s pretty much the top 10 Do’s and Don’t’s of diabetes etiquette. Some highlights include:

· Don’t offer unsolicited advice about my eating or other aspects of diabetes.

o Example: As I’m reaching for a piece of candy “You know that has sugar in it, right? You can’t have sugar!”

o It is probably OK to ask real, genuine questions about my diet, though. Like, “Hey, you’re coming over for dinner, are there any special things I need to know to prepare a meal for you?”

· Do offer to join me in making healthy lifestyle changes.

o Example: If I’m trying to get more exercise, offer to be my walking partner!

Please take the time to check out all 10 Do’s & Don’ts. You can even print out this in a handy card form!

Also, I wish there was a diabetes etiquette card for people who DO have diabetes. I think there are a few things that people with diabetes can do to smooth over potentially difficult situations with non-PWDs. For example, if it is time for you to take a shot and you are with people who don’t know you very well, or who have never seen you give a shot, it’s probably polite to say “hey, I have diabetes, and I need to take a shot of insulin right now. So, if that will make you squeamish, you might want to look away for a few seconds.” I’ve found that the more I explain to people what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, the less awkward situations become. Maybe I’ll create a card for PWDs someday.

Any way, have fun practicing your new-found diabetes manners!

Next Up: The Diabetes OC


  1. I liked the card that you linked to. I read all ten :) It's always good to raise awareness about what you have been through (or what you continue to go through). I hope that I put people at ease when I talk about surviving abuse, for example. Reading this post helped me feel more at ease with friends I have with diabetes.

  2. Awareness is very important especially to the people who suffer from certain diseases. They should have the proper awareness to keep their life.

  3. How do I respond to co-workers at work when I use my insulin pen in the break room (the bathroom has no counter space to put diabetic supplies down on) and am told that I should do it in the bathroom? I think it's rude for them to comment on my doing something medically necessary and the fact that if they don't want to see me do it, don't look! I use a pen which is more discreet than a syringe and vial and feel that there isn't anything to be so paranoid about, as I just attach a small needle to the top of the pen and then inject so rapidly it shouldn't even be an issue.