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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes 9 to 5: Tips to Help You Manage Your Diabetes at Work

Controlling symptoms is critical to controlling your diabetes. Here's how experts say you can do the job while on the job.

Diabetes on the Job: To tell or Not to Tell

One of the biggest work issues faced by people with diabetes is whether or not to tell the boss, or even co-workers, about their disease. Either way, it's important to know that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits potential employers from asking if you have type 1 diabetes or asking questions concerning insulin use or other prescription drugs.

Once you have the job, however, the decision is yours as to whether or not to keep it personal or let others know. That said, experts believe it is important that at least one person in your workplace know of your condition, particularly if you are using insulin. That person could be a co-worker, nurse, or supervisor.

"You should tell someone who is physically near you at work that you have diabetes," says Strumph, "particularly if you take insulin. Give them a description of what happens when blood sugars drop too low. And tell them the basic emergency treatment for this."

Moreover, he says, always have glucagon with you -- either in your desk or on you. And make certain that someone at work knows how to give it to you in the event of an emergency. Glucagon is an injectable medicine that can raise blood sugar in an emergency.

Synder agrees. "You have to treat low blood sugar swiftly. If you teach your co-workers about that, it can not only save your life in an emergency, but also help them to better understand your behavior if and when your sugar goes low." Synder tells WebMD that if your sugar goes low, you can become cranky or even prone to emotional outbursts.

If you're having problems judging when your sugar levels are dropping, talk to your doctor about continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) watches. CGM watches sound an alarm when glucose drops below a certain level.

But even if a trusted colleague knows your condition, should you still tell the boss? What if you think that it might have an impact on whether you move ahead in your job? According to Rosalind Joffee, president of, an online resource for professionals with chronic illness, telling should always begin on a "need to know" basis. But if you do decide to tell, don't assume that simply saying, "I have diabetes" is all you need to do.

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