As soon as you’re old enough, you’ll probably be keen to start driving and if you manage your diabetes responsibly there’s no reason why diabetes should stop you. As long as you play it safe, research shows that people with diabetes don’t have more car accidents than anyone else. Extra things you need to think about are:
Applying for a licence
When you apply for a licence you must tell the traffic authority in your state that you have type 1 diabetes. Each State and Territory has its own regulations regarding the allocation of licences to people with diabetes, but it’s likely that you’ll need a doctors report stating that your diabetes is well managed. You’ll probably need a new letter from your doctor every two years. Your doctor will want to support you to get your licence and renewals, but remember that they are only able to do so, if you are making an effort to care for your diabetes.
Hypos (low BGLs) are the major risk for anyone driving who has diabetes. It’s really important that you have a good knowledge about hypos – your symptoms, treatment and prevention. You always need to check your blood glucose level (BGL) before getting in the car and to have hypo treatment at hand. If your BGL is low before you drive, treat the hypo and wait until your BGL has come back up and you’re feeling better. If you have a hypo while you’re driving, pull over immediately and check your BGL. Don’t think “I’ll stop later” – it might be too late. Driving while having a hypo can slow your reaction time and put you, your passengers, other drivers and pedestrians in danger.
If you have hypo unawareness (that is, you don’t feel your hypos coming on) it’s important that you discuss this with your doctor, as driving in this situation is very dangerous.
Alcohol & Drugs
Driving, alcohol and drugs are not a good mix and are illegal. Alcohol and drugs can make you feel overconfident which can make you take risks and be more prone to an accident. Like a hypo, alcohol and drugs can also slow your reaction time while driving.
If you plan on drinking or taking drugs, don’t drive – organise a designated driver or another way to get home. Remember, if you’ve got type 1 diabetes you’re also at increased risk of delayed hypos from alcohol. If you’ve had a big night keep this in mind before you get in the car the next day.
Complications such as those affecting the eyes or feet can impact on your ability to drive safely. If you have any diabetes related complications, discuss this with your doctor before you drive.
For further information on driving and type 1 diabetes visit: www.austroads.com.au
Lots of teenagers work part time while they’re still at school and there’s no reason why having diabetes should stop you from doing this.
Telling the boss
One of the big questions when applying for a job is “should I tell them I’ve got diabetes?” It’s understandable if you don’t want to tell anyone, but if you don’t you might run into trouble with testing, hypos, eating regularly and injections – so to avoid any problems it’s best to be open and honest. You might be worried that they won’t understand, but usually once you’ve explained about diabetes, people are OK with it. If you show that you’re responsible, they realise that diabetes isn’t such a big deal. Your employer has a duty of care to provide a safe work environment, but equally, you have a duty of care to be responsible and manage your diabetes.
It’s a good idea to discuss with your employer about the need for:
- regular meal breaks
- somewhere private to test and inject
- time out to treat a hypo
- other staff to be aware of hypos, how to treat them and what to do in the case of an emergency
You may need support from your parents, someone at home or your diabetes educator when applying for a job. If you look after your diabetes well, you should be at no greater risk than anyone else of missing work opportunities. If you have any problems or you feel you are being discriminated against, contact your diabetes educator or Diabetes Australia in your state or territory.
When you’re at work
These tips can help you manage your diabetes when you’re at work:
- You may need to adjust your insulin (dose and/or timing) depending on the type of work you do eg. active on your feet type jobs. Discuss this with your doctor or diabetes team.
- Keep a well stocked hypo kit handy at all times
- Don’t skip meal breaks – stop when you need to eat
- Avoid leaving sharps (eg. syringes, pens, finger prickers) lying around
- Don’t ignore a hypo – treat it immediately and re-treat if necessary
- If you do shift work, talk to your diabetes team about changes you might need to make to your diabetes routine eg. injection times, meals etc.
People with type 1 diabetes can usually follow the career path of their choice, with a few exceptions:
- the defence forces e.g. army, navy, air force
- full time or volunteer fire brigade
- the police force
- the aviation industry – commercial and private
- careers that involve high risk activities e.g. at heights, underwater or solo in nature
Should you need further information regarding career options, please call your State or Territory Diabetes association