The Public Debate

When Larry Hausner, CEO of the American Diabetes Association shared his experience about trying a CGM to better understand a piece of living with diabetes, he mentioned that he tried testing his blood glucose in public and was surprised by how many people stared at him. It made me think about the age-old debate – is it acceptable to test your blood glucose or give yourself an injection in public, or not?

Last year, Diabetes Forecast asked its online readers “Do you test your blood glucose in public?” Of the responses they received (which were not analyzed by a statistician or anything like that), the results came back like this:

32% “Yes, all the time”
32% “Yes, occasionally”
15% “No, unless I’m with people I know well”
22% “No, I would never do it in public”

This just shows how divided the diabetes community can be about this. But why are we all so split on the issue? On one side of the argument, there are some people who may not want to make it visible that they have diabetes while they’re out in public. Part of me understands this – from the curious stares to the overload of questions that comes with disclosing the disease.

The one time I remember going to a restroom to test my blood glucose and give myself an injection was when I worked at a large, high profile summer camp (unfortunately not a diabetes camp). It was the first summer after I was diagnosed and my camp teams were middle school kids and I felt it would be best to avoid some of the questions. Now that I think about it, however, I did test my blood glucose in front of them – I just didn’t take insulin injections in front of them.

On the other side of things, why hide something you have to deal with regardless of where you are? If anything, testing your blood glucose demonstrates that you are being proactive about your health. This is the side that I most often find myself on, while testing in a movie theater, on the metro, in a bar, at a restaurant, on an airplane, or even while running a race. I test my blood glucose not to make a statement, but because I need to test.

But that’s just me, which brings me to what I think is the bottom line in this debate: Whether you test your blood glucose in public or not is a personal choice. Sure, factors like the setting and the people you’re around may be a factor in that choice, but at the end of the day it’s about you and your health. Do what makes you comfortable.

So then, what do you do? And – what is the strangest situation in which you have tested your blood glucose?

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11 Responses to The Public Debate

  1. Monica says:

    I have to say that I guess I would be considered strange. I test any and every where and I will give myself an injection anywhere at anytime as well. I live with diabetes and that’s that. If I make it a natural part of my live then everyone around me is comfortable. Since we know that diabetes is on the rise, then people should see what that really looks like.

  2. Hakima says:

    I do test in public… I often check my bg right before a meal, so it’s common for me to break out the meter at the table. I normally hold it on my lap though. I have also done it in a public restroom. On days when I have to work with a partner, I tell them at the beginning of the day that I have diabetes & ask them if it bothers them if I test in the car. I usually try to test 6-8 times a day, so there’s a chance that at least one of those times will be in public. I do notice that if it’s in front of someone, they will begin to ask questions, which I think is great, because it’s a chance to educate someone. The question I get the most is, “why do you have to test so much? My family member has diabetes & they don’t test at all.” I tell them that’s what I have to do to keep my levels tight and under control. You stated it perfectly…it’s not to make a statement, it’s a need, and it’s also shows how proactive we are.

    Recently I began playing in a volleyball league & now I test between games, courtside, to be sure I don’t drop too low. I see other players looking, and I make sure they see me use my alcohol wipes so no one gets upset. Same thing in the gym, because I have to test every 20 min. As for insulin, I usually go into the rest room for that.

    I don’t think I’ve had a strange test situation yet, but I’m sure I will eventually. It’s holiday shopping season, so I know I’ll be testing in public over the next couple of months… look for me in a mall near you!

  3. Amy Olson says:

    my employeer has told me that i have to go into a bathroom or into a managers office and ask him to leave so I can be alone to check my blood sugar or take isulin. I was told because of bloodborne pathogins i can contaminate someone. any advice?

  4. Lisa Anderson says:

    I tested once on the subway in New York because I felt high and didn’t want to wait to take a bolus if I needed one. The lady next to me started whispering to her neighbor, then she got off immediately at the next stop. Turns out she was disgusted that I was exposing my blood in public and thought she would get AIDS from me. She was being completely ignorant, of course, but it still made me feel horrible. I felt “dirty” for having diabetes.

    • Dayle says:

      Oh dear – you should never feel that way!

      I say good for you for being proactive and not waiting to give yourself a correction bolus if you need one! 🙂

  5. jim says:

    used to do it in public then my own family turned against me
    do you have to……. get up and go somewhere else ……………..
    however when we are at home they want to see me do it
    to be satisfied … Nothing like the diabetes cop………….

  6. Kent Wirth says:

    I recently went to McDonald’s to have break fast. When out of the blue the manager approached me and asked me not too test my blood sugar in his restaurant. He explained to me that he was getting complaints’ from other customer about me doing a finger stick. I feel that this topic should be discussed with other diabetic to come up with a resolution.

  7. Lucy Van Zandt says:

    Miss Manners recently responded to a writer that they shouldn’t test “in public.” This attitude shows total ignorance of the issues involved. As long as we are discreet about testing and injecting, it should be fine.

  8. J Weschler says:

    And what does the Americans with Disabilities Act have to say about discriminating against diabetics?
    Seems to me any public space that discriminates against diabetics treating their medical condition should be in violation of this law and liable for prosecution and or civil legal actions.

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