Helping Your Child Adjust To Diabetes: How To Properly Dispose Of Sharps

If your child or teen has just been diagnosed with diabetes, you are probably a bit overwhelmed with their lifestyle changes. You can transition into this new realm more easily if you encourage your child to take some responsibility for their health and teach them how to properly dispose of their medical supplies.

Create A Solid Schedule and Reward Their Success

Your child may fight you on dietary restrictions, medicine, and so on. Since this transition may be difficult, you may want to set up a reward system while they adjust. A sticker chart is a great way to keep track of their day-to-day routine, and they can work up to small rewards each week.

If you have a teen with diabetes, obviously the sticker route isn't going to fly. Believe it or not, there are actually phone apps that help you monitor exercise, medicine, food intake, and blood sugar. Since most teens are attached at the hip to their technology, an app may be a great way to help them stay on top of their health.

Teach Them About Sharp Safety

In the medical world, "sharps" is the term to refer to any device that can puncture skin (e.g. syringes, needles, infusion sets, etc.). Your child will probably need to use lancets—or fingerstick devices. This two-edged blade will help you test their blood. Another sharp your child may use is an auto injector. These are pre-filled insulin pens for self-injection.

It's important that you sit down and not only explain to your child how to properly use their sharps, but why it's so important to dispose of them correctly. Old sharps can seriously injure people and animals and spread infections. While it's easy to discard them correctly at home, you're going to need to teach your child how to safely discard them while at school, at a restaurant, etc.

Sharps should never be:

  • in the reach of small children

  • in a visible place (e.g. countertop) where a visitor could take it

  • flushed down the toilet

  • put in the recycling bin

  • thrown uncovered in the trash

If your child needs to fly with their equipment, you'll need a letter from your physician so that you can have permission to carry your sharps. If your child needs to use a sharp at school, there are travel-size containers that they can carry and keep in the nurse's office.

Teach Then How to Properly Dispose of Sharps

While you'll help your child dispose of medical supplies from the get-go, you should start teaching them the process so that they can do it when they're older. When you visit with your child's physician, they should give you rules from the local board of health in your city on how to properly dispose of sharps in your area. 

Here's a basic run-down of how to dispose of sharps:

1. Purchase a sharps container. You've probably seen these in doctors' offices. They're red and they have a big biohazard sticker—you can't miss 'em!

2. After your child uses a sharp, they should immediately put it in the sharps container. The containers shouldn't be overfilled. Make sure you stop discarding sharps and seal the top when 2/3 of the container is filled.

3. Contact your chosen disposal program. The FDA has a program called the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal, which can get you in touch with special waste service pickups, mail-back programs, hazardous waste collection sites, and so on.

It sounds pretty straightforward, right? So what do you do if you don't have a sharps container on hand? If you don't have a sharps container, you can use a container that has the following features:

  • It's made of heavy-duty plastic that won't leak

  • It can sit upright without falling over

  • Its lid is sealable and can't be punctured

Dish detergent bottles or old cleaning bottles are usually sturdy since they have to withstand strong chemicals. Don't discard the sharps in old pop cans, glass bottles, water bottles, or anything that can be pierced easily. Make your own bio-hazard sticker with some masking tape and a permanent ink, then take it to your chosen medical waste removal program.