By Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, Pediatric Endocrinologist
When a child is first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a family may feel confused and overwhelmed. It can be difficult to navigate through the correct information as there are many types of diabetes and many different insulin regimens. As families work with pediatric endocrinologists and their teams, it is important to try to avoid false information about type 1 diabetes.
Myth #1: It's my fault my child has diabetes.
When a child is first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, one of the first emotions a parent will feel is guilt. This is because many initially assume that diet plays a role in the development of the condition. This, however, isn't true. Type 1 diabetes is not simply the junior version of type 2 diabetes. We now know it's an autoimmune disease, and currently there is not a way to prevent the development of Type 1 Diabetes. So don't blame yourself for your child's diagnosis.
Myth #2: Children with diabetes can’t have sweets ever.
If a child has type 1 diabetes, the child and his family are going to have to think more about what he eats. But that doesn't mean he can't participate in birthday celebrations or have an ice cream cone at the beach. Most of the time, people will count carbohydrates and adjust insulin appropriately. Even eating out is possible. Technology has made this process much easier—many families use a smart phone app to keep track of carb counts.
Myth #3: Because your child is on insulin, she can eat whatever she wants.
While some parents are afraid to let a child with diabetes indulge at all, others take an opposite approach. Because their child is already on insulin, they think they don't have to pay as much attention to their diet. This is a growing problem. Many children with diabetes are also becoming overweight, which means we have to fight the diabetes and the obesity. To ensure your child is as healthy as possible, you should monitor the grams of carbs he or she consumes and make sure they are eating a nutritional diet.
Myth #4: Kids with type 1 diabetes are in the hospital all the time.
To make sure a family is fully educated about the disease, we almost always admit a newly diagnosed child into the hospital for a short stay. In most cases, though, this is going to be the only time a child with type 1 diabetes will have to be in the hospital. Patients are, however, are followed regularly on an outpatient basis.
Myth #5: A child with type 1 diabetes will have to adjust her expectations in life.
A child with type 1 diabetes is not simply "a diabetic." Diabetes is only one part of her life; and does not define her. Yes, her life is going to change in that she (and you) are going to have to pay attention to the foods she eats and the insulin she needs. But despite those modifications, your child is the same person she was before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Children with diabetes play (and excel at) sports and participate in a wide variety of extracurricular activities.
Myth #6: Because type 1 diabetes is treated solely with insulin, there won't be many advancements in the treatment of the disease.
Currently, insulin is the only therapy for type 1 diabetes; there's no way around it. But there have been and will be many advancements in how it's administered. Just in the past 10 years there have been amazing developments in the understanding and treatment of type 1 diabetes, and we can expect more to show up over the next several years. These innovations will hopefully make it easier for children and their parents to check blood sugar and deliver/receive insulin. There also continues to be great research done in working to cure type 1 diabetes. We all look forward to that day.