Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease that currently
has no cure. Your child needs to take insulin injections. This can be a scary
process for adults, not to mention for a child. If your child is very young,
you will need to give these injections. When your child is older, he or she can
take on some of the responsibility for insulin injections.
Your child needs to watch his or her diet closely. Again, this is
an area many adults have difficulty with, and it can be even harder on a child.
It helps if the entire family gets involved, eats healthy foods, and learns about counting carbohydrate. Although the lure of
eating junk foods remains, you can balance your child's meals with healthier
selections at home. Above all, a child needs to understand the relationship
between food and his or her blood sugar.
Many children "cheat" on their diets and eat extra foods without
telling their parents or other adults. This can lead to high blood sugar levels
and hospitalizations. Make it clear to your child that eating equals a need for
insulin, and he or she should always tell an adult when eating something that's
not on the meal plan for the day.
It's helpful to incorporate the idea of balance into your child's
understanding. If your child wants to eat a food not on the meal plan for the
day, then your child needs to adjust the insulin dose to reflect this
School can also present a particular challenge for a child with
type 1 diabetes. Because of the need to take insulin injections throughout the
day (or use an insulin pump) and the need to eat on a regular schedule, children who have type 1 diabetes
stand out from their peers. It may help if you encourage your child to explain
diabetes to his or her friends and show them how the equipment works. Most
children are merely curious and are eager to learn.
It is also important that you meet with your child's teacher,
school nurse, and school administrators to discuss diabetes care at school. The
Americans with Disabilities Act covers children with diabetes, so
your child's school must assist you with his or her diabetes treatment. Make
sure that the school has on hand the correct type of supplies and insulin for
You should also meet with your child's gym teacher to discuss how
diabetes is affected by exercise. Most gym teachers are not trained to
recognize signs of sudden high or low blood sugar. So you must explain what
symptoms your child may have and how to deal with them. Encourage your child to
play sports and be physically active, because it positively contributes to his
or her diabetes treatment. But physical activity will now take more
planning than before. Your diabetes team can help you adjust your child's
diabetes treatment plan for physical activity.
As children with type 1 diabetes grow, encourage them to take more
control over their treatment. As a parent, you may want to be there every time
your child gets an insulin injection. But it's important that you let your
child develop independence.
There are many summer camps for children who have diabetes.
Such settings can help children learn about their disease and about how to
manage it. Also, the camp setting introduces them to other children who have type 1 diabetes. If
you arm your child with the proper knowledge, it not only empowers him or her
to take responsibility for self-care but also provides a greater understanding
of the disease and why it's important to treat it.
Remember that your family is not alone in dealing
with your child's diabetes. Your diabetes team coordinator can direct you to
local support groups as well as many resources on the Internet and
publications from organizations such as the American Diabetes Association. In
addition to providing emotional support, these groups can also direct you to
information you need to overcome whatever hurdles arise in your child's
experience with diabetes.
December 4, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Stephen LaFranchi, MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology
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