Diabetes and Carnival: How Do You Celebrate Without Putting Yourself in Danger?

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Hello everyone, welcome to my editorial 🙂 My name is Stéphanie, I’m 42  years old, I’m a nurse, and I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for 27 years, and I also became a mother in 2017, of a child living with t1d.

Rio, Venice, Nice, Cologne, Binche, Dunkirk… Carnival continues to be a popular tradition all over Europe. When we talk about Carnival, our thoughts naturally turn to costumes, parades, music, and celebration! You’re probably wondering if it’s possible for someone living with type 1 diabetes to enjoy Carnival. How do you manage it all? How do you avoid hypo- and hyperglycemia? Be patient, and I’ll tell you all about it 😉

People living with diabetes can enjoy the pleasures in life just like anyone else. For the most part, diabetes and Carnival aren’t incompatible (good news, right?). Let’s focus on the precautions to take, not the constraints. Here we go!   

I’d say there are three main ways to enjoy Carnival.

1 | The Passive Carnival

You enjoy Carnival as a spectator by watching a parade or seeing a show. 

This is the easiest option to manage. It limits excesses the most and doesn’t generally mean changing your usual routine. 

2 | The Active Carnival

This is the most energetic option! You wear a costume, join the parade, dance…

Just watch out for hypoglycemia taking you by surprise. To be prepared, pack a pouch, a purse or a (trendy) fanny pack that’s easy to carry or hide under your costume.

Remember to bring:

  • A glucometer
  • Test strips
  • A lancing device
  • Short-acting insulin and needles
  • A back-up pump
  • A sugar source
  • Your diabetic ID card
  • Glucagon

3 | The Extreme Carnival

You’re going to start off by saying no, no, no alcohol for me, no crepes, no waffles, no straying from the path.

During Carnival alcohol is part of the fun, so to be safe, pick a friend to be the designated driver! 

Watch out for the hypoglycemic effect of alcohol. If you drink, check your blood sugar more often, and snack while you drink.

If you give in to temptation with the crepes, waffles and all the other sweet treats, take a bolus to avoid unnecessary hyperglycemia

So what about the Carnival of Dunkirk? 

As a Dunkirk native who loves Carnival and has type 1 diabetes, it’s my sacred duty to share some tips and tricks with you. 

The Carnival of Dunkirk is the most exciting, and the most energetic 😉 It’s a very lively Carnival, with chahuts (controlled stampedes), parades and excesses.

If you use an insulin pump, remember to:

  • Lower the pump’s basal rate or reduce your bolus dose.
  • Carry a bag with everything you need (mainly in case you need to change your pump).
  • Check your blood sugar regularly
  • Plan a practical costume with easy access to all your devices (continuous glucose monitor, insulin pump, etc.).
  • Keep an eye on your insulin pump catheter to avoid hyperglycemia; chahuts can cause the pump to shift.

I remember once when I ended up hypoglycemic. I didn’t have any sugar with me, and I had no money to buy a sweet drink. As a last resort, I found a cotton candy salesman. I will be forever grateful to him for saving my life with a handful of strawberry-flavored sugar!

We all have stories to tell about scary experiences that ended well. But it’s always better to avoid having them in the first place! 

Living with diabetes means organizing your life differently. 

As long as they’re prepared, Carnival-goers can handle their diabetes safely and still have fun.

Cotillions, music, glucose tabs and insulin at the ready… Let the party begin!!

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