Opinion: How to live at uni with a medical condition

How do you move away from your home and family and stay healthy? Claudia Dunn writes about her own – sometimes bruising – experiences.


I had just moved from Bristol to Cheltenham, eager to start my life as a student journalist.

I adjusted to life away from home very quickly, making instant life-long friends and using food money for alcohol and surviving solely on Lidl noodles (as any first year does). Yet the thing I struggled most with was adapting to caring for my long term medical condition.


Having been Type One Diabetic since the age of three, I have always had a tight support network of family and friends to watch out for me, helping identify when my blood sugar is too high or too low, reminding me to inject with food and stay hydrated.

However, moving to Cheltenham in September 2015 meant I was an hour away from my home and could reinvent myself. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and I allowed myself to be incredibly relaxed with my condition.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Eight months of an overly relaxed attitude caused my immune system to hit a new low. In the last two weeks of the semester I developed a severe case of tonsillitis which led to borderline DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) which is incredibly dangerous for someone like me.

Talk about falling at the final hurdle.

I was hospitalised for three days, two of which I was delirious to the point where I don’t really remember it. Luckily I was fixed quickly and sent home to be cared for by my parents (something I was hugely excited about).

So how do you move away from home and stay healthy?

It is estimated that in Western countries, 20-30% of teenagers have a chronic illness that currently has no cure; conditions including Diabetes, Asthma and Epilepsy.

How do you not wind up in hospital like I did?

The most important thing to remember is that just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you need any less self-care. Try to prioritise the things that I neglected, such as sleep, vegetables and my lectures.



Eating healthy is very important, living off take away and ready meals will hurt your immune system regardless of the environment, but in the fresher’s flu ridden halls of uni it could be extremely dangerous for those of us with a weaker defence’s, trust me.

I’m not attempting to preach to you about getting your five fruit and veg a day, I’m clearly not the picture of health myself, but you owe it to yourself to at least try to get two.

You also owe it to yourself to not die from dehydration. Remember to drink as much water as possible, it may sound like an obvious piece of advice but it is imperative to stay hydrated, especially if you go out drinking on a frequent basis.



If there is one thing I have learnt from my uni experience so far is that sleep is highly underrated. There is a reason my parents go to bed at exactly 10pm every night, to maintain their routine.

As boring as it sounds, you need a routine; give yourself a bedtime and stick to it, even if it is as late as 12:30am- it is still a routine that means your body can get used to waking up early for lectures – and yes, I recommend you attend as many of those as you can.


Whether you choose to listen to my advice or not, remember that you are not invincible. First year is all about new experiences and meeting incredible people, but you cannot do that from a hospital bed. So look after yourself.

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