Here to Help - Part Two


More than 200 people a month phone Diabetes NZ’s helpline to ask for support and advice. In the Wellness Magazine in autumn 2019, we ran an article sharing some of their questions, and it was so popular with readers that we decided to do another.

Some of the team at the Diabetes NZ office: (from left) Marsha Mackie, Heather Verry with Jerry the Bear, Stephen Jarvis, Nicky Steel and Liz Dutton

Some of the team at the Diabetes NZ office: (from left) Marsha Mackie, Heather Verry with Jerry the Bear, Stephen Jarvis, Nicky Steel and Liz Dutton

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Nicky Steel is the friendly voice at the other end of Diabetes NZ’s free helpline. Here are some of the latest questions she’s fielded. All names and locations have been changed.


Aroha, office manager for a Canterbury primary school, phones to ask if Diabetes NZ has any resource material to help staff prepare for the arrival of two new pupils with type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes NZ has a flip chart available for schools that explains how to support a student with type 1. The Diabetes NZ website also includes links to diabetes action and management plans.

These documents have been produced by the New Zealand Child & Youth Clinical Networks in partnership with the Paediatric Society of New Zealand. They provide a guide for the consistent care and management of children and young people with diabetes in schools and early childcare organisations. Nicky gives Carol a link to the plans:


John is an inmate in a North Island prison and has type 2 diabetes. He says his blood glucose levels are bouncing around, and he wants to know how to manage his diabetes for lower and more consistent readings. He says he knows he needs to lose some weight.

Nicky advises John to look at what he’s eating and how much, and suggests he asks the prison if he can be put onto a special low-fat diet or vegetarian menu (less meat, lower in fat and calories). He also needs to try and ensure he takes regular exercise – at least 30 minutes daily which can be broken into smaller bursts over the day.


Graeme phones from Nelson asking where to get a new diabetes logbook, as the one he’s using is full. Logbooks are typically supplied by diabetes medication companies and should have information printed on them about how to reorder. Diabetes NZ has a small stock of Pharmaco’s My Diabetes logbooks available.


Tina, a truck driver from New Plymouth, has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and wants to know what she needs to do to manage it. She drives long distances each day, with a stop for lunch at a roadside takeaway. She tries to take walks after work as often as she can.

Anyone living with diabetes who has to spend long periods of time in a sedentary role should eat healthy food in sensible portion sizes, and also try to take regular breaks for some physical activity. Nicky discusses with Tina whether she could also take a quick walk whenever she stops for a truck stop break, even if it’s just around her vehicle, and challenge herself to increase the number of laps over a period of time.


Roger from Te Awamutu has type 2 diabetes and has been feeling dizzy. He was prescribed Metformin a few weeks ago, but stopped taking it because it made him nauseous.

People starting a new diabetes medication such as Metformin may feel unwell in the initial stages as their body adjusts. Usually these feelings subside. However, if you’re feeling nauseous or unwell for more than a week, talk to your GP. This is what Nicky advises Roger to do. Your pharmacist is also a good source of information about diabetes medications and managing any side-effects.


Gillian is pregnant and has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She calls from Hawke’s Bay wanting to know if this means she’ll get type 2 diabetes in the future.

Nicky explains that women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but not all will. Doctors advise women with gestational diabetes to get regular diabetes checks for the rest of their life. Research also shows that making lifestyle changes straight away, for example losing weight if appropriate and switching to a healthier diet, can reduce the risk of going on to develop type 2.


Barry from Whanganui has booked an air ticket to the UK. He’s taking insulin and wants to know how to keep it cool during the flight.

Nicky advises Barry to buy a cooling bag for the flight. These are available from Diabetes NZ Auckland’s online shop:

**This article first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Diabetes Wellness magazine. Subscribe to Diabetes NZ today to receive your copy.

Jo Chapman