What’s a D bag? – What life-saving items do you carry?

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Until our grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes we were completely unaware of what’s a D bag let alone what may be in one.

First, let me clarify that I don’t in any way mean the slang version of a d-bag meaning dirtbag.

I am referring to a Diabetes bag and anyone who has type 1 diabetes or has a family member with it will be all too familiar with it and its contents.

This bag goes everywhere you go. You are never without it and it is always within easy reach.

Our grandson actually has two.

One is quite small and is used for short trips. Driving him to school, or when he comes here to visit.

He also has a larger one that is used for when he will be away from home for a longer time like overnight or on vacation.

Regardless of which bag he has with him it is important we never forget it and never lose it.

His life depends upon it.

Small bag

What's a D bag? - small d-bag

Our grandson’s small D-bag is the one that gets used every single day. It goes with Alex everywhere he goes even if we think we are only going to be five minutes.

Lows can happen anytime, anywhere and for no apparent reason so it is important to always be prepared.

Our grandson is also hypoglycemic unaware which means he hasn’t yet learned to feel his lows coming on.

Another reason to keep that little D-bag handy at all times.

Diabetes supplies are temperature sensitive so you need to be sure you use an insulated bag.

So what is in his small D-bag?

CGM scanner

The outside pocket of Alex’s D-bag contains the scanner for his CGM (continuous glucose monitor).

This little piece of equipment has saved a LOT of finger pokes.

It is so simple to use, we just scan the little disc he wears on his arm and it tells us his blood glucose levels.

The one Alex uses has a fifteen-minute delay which we need to always keep in mind.

If he scans low, we always do a finger poke before treating him to get a more up-to-date number.

Glucose testing kitWhat's a D bag? - blood glucose test kit

The glucose test kit contains everything we need to test his blood sugar levels manually or by finger pokes.

The contents are:

Insulin Pen Needle

Type 1 diabetics will need to take insulin and your diabetes care team will help determine the best delivery method for you.

Insulin delivery methods include:

  • traditional syringe
  • pen needle
  • insulin pump

We use a pen needle for our grandson.

He has been asking about an insulin pump so that may be something we switch to in the future.

Ketone Test Strips

When a type 1 diabetic has high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) over a long period of time they can develop ketones risking diabetic ketoacidosis which is a life-threatening complication of diabetes.

If Alex has been running high we always test for ketones and call his doctor if ketones are present.

Fast Acting Sugar Snacks

Because we frequently check Alexs glucose levels we often catch lows (hypoglycemia) before they are serious.

When lows occur a fast-acting sugar snack will start raising those blood sugars again.

Be careful though, you don’t want to overcorrect and cause a spike.

So what do we use?

With Alex being so young, 6-years-old, we have found Skittles, fruit to go or apple juice tends to work great for him.

We also keep sucrose tabs on hand in case we donèt have snacks.

Glucagon Emergency Kit

Every type 1 will carry a glucagon kit.

There is now a new type of nasal glucagon that is apparently easier to use.

We still have the syringe kit.

The glucagon kit is only to be used in an emergency.

For instance, if Alex were to go so low he was unconscious or unable to eat any sugar snacks on his own.

Simply follow the directions and give the injection.

The person will usually come around quite quickly but you should still seek medical advice after a severe hypo.

Large BagWhat's a D bag? - large D-bag

As I mentioned earlier, the large bag is used when he comes for a sleepover, or anytime he is going to be away from home for a long period of time.

Alex has a duplicate large bag that stays at his school in case he needs anything that is not in his small bag while he is at school.

So what is in his large bag?

The large bag contains the small bag plus several other items.

Sharps container

We are using so many needles or lancet tips in the course of the day that we need a safe way to dispose of the sharps. Here in Canada, our local drugstore supplies us with multiple sharps containers. We simply return them to the drugstore when full for safe disposal.

Extra alcohol swabs

With so many finger pokes and injections throughout each day, you can never have too many alcohol swabs. It is actually surprising how many you go through.

You donèt want to be caught without them when you need to do a finger poke or give an injection.


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Extra lancets

It has happened where a tip has bent and we need to replace the lancet while we are out and about. Always have extras with you so you can easily and safely test blood sugars.

Extra Sensor for CGM

With an active 6-year-old, you never know when the sensor may get bumped and need replacing. This has happened several times and thankfully we have had a spare with us.

Charger for CGM scanner

I donèt know how many times I have gone to scan Alex only to find the battery is low and it can’t read the results. When this happens we resort to doing a finger poke until the reader is charged again.

Any time Alex comes for a sleepover his parents include the charger in his large bag.

Extra needles for pen needle

With a minimum of 4 injections a day we need to ensure we have enough needle tips for his pen needles. The big bag contains a box of tips.

Bottle of test strips

You don’t want to get caught without any test strips so it is a good idea to always carry extras. We keep the current bottle with the test kit and a spare bottle in the large bag.

Ketone test strips

Ketone test strips are another thing we always keep extra of. You never know when they will be needed.

We have found that in summer, the hot temperatures tend to keep Alex running high.

In order to avoid full-blown DKA, we test for ketones when he is running high and not coming down enough with his regular insulin ratios.

Extra insulin

It is imperative to always have enough insulin with you. You can’t just go pick up more anywhere and you certainly don’t want to run out when you need it.

Long-lasting insulin

Each diabetic takes their long-lasting insulin at different times depending on what your doctor has told you.

Alex takes his at 6 in the morning but he used to take it at bedtime.

There is always his long-lasting insulin in his big bag when he comes for sleepovers.

His big bag at school doesn’t have long-lasting in it.

More snacks

Lows can happen anytime and anywhere so you need to always have enough fast-acting sugar snacks available.

Things that are either individually packaged or have a long shelf life are perfect.

Glucose tablets are kept in his big bag as well as his small bag.

SnacksWhat's a D bag? - fast-acting sugar snacks

Diabetics react to different foods differently. For us, it was a bit of an experiment to find what worked best for Alex.

We typically give him 5 skittles then wait 15 minutes and test him again. If his levels have started to rise we are good to go, if not we give him another 5 skittles and test again in 15 minutes.

He usually only needs about a quarter cup of apple juice to start raising his blood sugars.

Some people find that small Halloween size chocolate bars work. For Alex, they don’t work fast enough when he is low.

Fruit to go works well also and they are individually wrapped.

For Alex, we give him half and see if that starts raising his blood sugars.

Traveling

Traveling with a diabetic requires a LOT of pre-planning but it can be done.

Before traveling with a type 1 diabetic be sure to talk with your doctor bout where you are going and how long you intend to be there.

Make sure you have enough supplies with you because they may not be so easy to access in foreign countries.

Will you be flying.

Be sure to keep your temperature-sensitive diabetes supplies in your carry-on bag.

Enough snacks are even more critical when traveling because mealtimes may be different and delayed meals can really mess up those blood sugars.

For more information on traveling with a diabetic check out my article Travelling with type 1 diabetes.

Final Thoughts

We now know what is in a D-bag and each diabetic will carry a D-bag everywhere they go.

It is important for type 1 diabetics to always have blood glucose testing equipment handy as well as a supply of insulin and fast-acting sugar snacks.

Some items will be needed even for short trips out and others mainly for longer trips or overnight.

We all know how expensive diabetes supplies any savings are certainly welcome.

Do you have a D-bag?

What is in yours?

Do you have any useful tips that may help others?

Leave your answers in the comment section below and remember to check out saving on diabetic supplies.

 


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10 thoughts on “What’s a D bag? – What life-saving items do you carry?”

  1. hi,

    this is a great article for those that are not familiar with what a D bag is and the important equipment needed for diabetics.

    If you aren’t aware, diabetes requires the very important balancing act of keeping your blood sugar at the correct level. This kit has everything you need.

    Having one of these kits around is vital and could save peoples lives in an extreme situation.

    Its kind of like having a first aid kit, you never know when your going to need it.

    However, its well worth having.

    My mum was diabetic and she would always have some digestive biscuits and bottle of Lucozade laying around for when her sugar levels dropped. Any excuse I used to say haha.

    Great post, thank you.

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Sorry to hear your mother was diabetic, mine was too as is our 6-year-old grandson. My mother had type 2 diabetes and our grandson has type 1. While they share many of the same symptoms there are also many differences as I explain in a previous article “What’s the difference between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes“. My mother didn’t manage her diabetes well and we lost her several years ago. Our daughter is vigilant about managing Alex’s diabetes and when he visits or has sleepovers here I take on the caregiver role. Eventually, he will take over his own care but that is a few years away yet I would say. For Alex, high blood sugars risk DKA and lows risk diabetic coma, both are very serious medical emergencies. Glad to hear your Mom kept treatments for low blood sugars handy at all times.

      Reply
  2. I’m a diabetic, and I don’t have a clue what a D Bag is. My wife recommended your post, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best articles I’ve read on diabetic equipment.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting Gorjan. I am sorry to hear you are diabetic. I am surprised you didn’t know what a D-bag is. Are you a type 2 diabetic? In many cases, type 2 diabetics don’t need to carry as many supplies with them. My mother was type 2 and didn’t require a D-bag. Her medication was at set times throughout the day and she was not insulin-dependent. She did finger pokes at set times which means she didn’t have to carry everything with her all the time. I am grateful you enjoyed my article. I wish you all the best with your diabetes journey.

      Reply
  3. This article is a great guide for people who are dealing with type 1 diabetes. You have thoroughly explained the essentials that help in different situations related to this condition. It is good to see that your family is managing this so well. Alex is truly blessed to have such caring people around him.

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. Managing type 1 diabetes can sometimes seem like a full-time job and it is sort of. That is because as caregivers of a T1D we essentially become Alex’s pancreas since his no longer functions. It really didn’t take long before it all became just a normal part of every day and every meal. The better we manage his diabetes the healthier he will be to enjoy life’s adventures. Thanks again and take care.

      Reply
  4. You certainly are prepared for any eventuality with Alex. Diabetes must be challenging especially for a 6 year old. The D bag is a great idea and provides your grandson with everything he needs to keep safe. The CGM scanner is a great invention and wonderful it can keep track of Alex’s glucose levels even though there’s a delay. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for the condition:)

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kathy for dropping by and taking the time to comment.
      Yes, we are always prepared for any eventuality when it comes to Alex’s diabetes. Better to be safe than sorry in my mind.
      The CGM is amazing even with the delay and certainly saves a lot of finger pokes.
      If he gets approval for the pump that will be another welcome piece of technology to learn.
      The pumps are designed to work with the CGM to deliver insulin according to his glucose levels. We are hoping he gets approved soon because he has been asking for one.
      Until there is a cure I welcome these new advances in type 1 diabetes treatment.
      Thanks again and take care.

      Reply
  5. Oof, that is a lot of necessities in that bag, Deb. I am aware that once someone is used to a routine it won’t be as overwhelming as for me, a layman reading about what is in such a bag, but phew, I am amazed.

    You might remember I only knew one Diabetic1 person, an employee of mine. He only had a pen, but he was quite indifferent about his disease. either it wasn’t that bad or he knew his body very well, I don’t know.

    All the others I know have Diabetes2 and that’s different, isn’t it?

    Let it be a great number of necessary equipment, it is marvelous that Alex can be just a boy, playing and learning most of the time. Maybe I asked before but then I forgot the answer, can he ever grew over it, or is this a lifetime condition?

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Hannie. Yes, it is a lot to have to carry around but you do get used to it.

      Unfortunately, not all type 1 diabetics properly manage their diabetes. That is a shame because by neglecting it and allowing blood sugars to remain too high for too long they are risking some very serious complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, and amputation.

      We know that eventually, Alex will take over his diabetes management but until then his family is more than willing to take care of that for him and give him as close to a normal childhood as possible.

      While type 2 diabetes can sometimes be corrected or cured through lifestyle changes. In type 2 diabetes the person still makes insulin they just may not make enough or may not respond to it efficiently.

      Type 1 diabetes has no cure and because the pancreas is no longer capable of making insulin. Type 1 diabetic will have to take insulin for the rest of their life. With good diabetes management, a type 1 diabetic can do anything the rest of us can do, they just may need to have a snack or take some insulin. They require the flexibility to properly manage their blood sugars so some things may take a little longer or need to be delayed a few minutes.

      To answer your question, Hannie, no he will not outgrow type 1 diabetes, he will have it for the rest of his life. If he manages his diabetes well, he can enjoy a long and healthy life.

      Reply

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