Hi Jill, everyone's heard about the dangers of drinking and we know it's illegal until you're 18. If you do decide to drink and you have diabetes, there are risks that you need to be aware of.
Alcohol can stop your liver from releasing glucose, which can increase the risk of hypos - especially if you’re out late, dancing or drink a lot. It can make it more difficult for you to recognise the symptoms of a hypo or you may be mistaken for being drunk. Alcohol can also cause vomiting and dehydration which may lead to DKA (ketoacidosis) and a possible trip to hospital. Many people also run into problems because alcohol can make it easy for you to forget about looking after your diabetes.
It’s hard to say exactly how one or two drinks will affect you as everyone has a different tolerance to alcohol. Factors like how active you’ve been that day and how active you are when you’re drinking (eg. dancing) make a difference. Whether or not you’ve eaten can also determine how alcohol affects you physically.
There’s no one drink that’s recommended over another, however, reduced alcohol choices such as light beer have less alcohol than other drinks. It’s recommended (for adults) that women drink no more than 1 standard drink each day (for teenagers there is no amount of alcohol that is considered to be safe). On the label of each drink it will tell you how many standard drinks it contains. Be careful of mixing your own drinks or drinking pre-mixed sweet drinks eg Vodka Cruisers, as it’s easy to drink too much too quickly. It’s a good idea to drink non-alcoholic drinks in between – this can slow you down and prevent you drinking too much.
If you do decide to drink, it’s important to take care to minimise any risks. Make sure you eat carbohydrate foods regularly while you’re drinking to reduce the risk of a hypo and carry hypo foods with you (eg. in your handbag / pocket). Wear ID saying that you have diabetes, and make sure that a friend who is with you (one who’s not drinking) knows what to do if you have a hypo. Test your blood glucose level, especially before bed, and top up with extra carbohydrate foods. Don’t skip your bed time insulin, you may need some adjustments if you get home late - talk to your diabetes team about what to do in this situation. You can find more info in D Zone at the link below.
If you’re considering drinking it’s important to talk to your diabetes team about the risks and how to stay safe. You might want to check out a good video called “keep your life online” about common issues for teenagers with type 1 diabetes. You can find out more at the link below.
diabeteskidsandteens – Risky Business