Survival Guide: Having a Diabetic Child
What is Diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2, which occur in both adults and children.
Childhood Diabetes Today
Type 1: Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, (IDDM). When your pancreas stops producing enough insulin (the ingredient needed to give you the energy to regulate blood sugar.)
Type 2: Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, (NIDDM). Once called "adult-onset diabetes", due to the fact that it only occurred in adults. In this case, your body does not make or use insulin well. Think of "insulin resistance."
Although there once was a time when Type 2 Diabetes didn't occur in children, which is not the case today.
Researchers say that both categories are now a growing factor in children. This can be due to the significant lifestyle changes over time. This includes a variety of factors such as obesity, diet, lack of exercise, genetics, viral or bacterial infection, and more.
Whether Type 1 Diabetes or Type 2, the key to ensure your child maintains a healthy status and great blood sugar levels, is to manage it according to its type.
Whether or not you've recently discovered your child is diabetic, there are several tips and tools you can use at any stage of your child's health to help maintain a healthy lifestyle for them that can positively affect their adulthood.
How to Treat Type 1
All of our bodies are naturally born to produce insulin, therefore insulin isn't for diabetics only. Diabetes comes into play when the insulin stops producing from a variety of factors as discussed above.
Children with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, therefore, they need insulin injections every day. In Type 1, this is often regulated using a medicine form of insulin. The specific devices that need to be used to inject insulin and monitor blood sugar will be discussed later.
How to Treat Type 2
A child with Type 2 diabetes may or may not need to take medication because most children diagnosed with Type 2 is due to lack of physical activity and poor diet. Although in some cases Type 2 can be prevented, this is not all cases.
Children with Type 2 usually have a family member with Type 2. Since Type 2 Diabetes is often diagnosed in children between the ages of 12-13, when they become teens, naturally their hormones will rise too.
The result of a diabetic teen is that because the hormones rise, it can dilute the insulin that is needed to maintain blood sugar.
The doctor will inform you of what your child needs to make sure a proper balance in diet and blood sugar are regulated.
Talking to Your Child
In medical science, it's often said that our minds play a huge part in our recovery from illness and overall health and healthiness. Part of having a good mind includes talking to your child about their condition and what they should be expecting.
Ignoring your child's questions, or negatively reacting to their lack of understanding to take their medication could be frightening for them.
Since children look to their parent's for guidance, they expect you to be understanding and to nurture them. Depending on your child's age, you may need to change the way you approach each conversation.
Preschoolers will depend on you indefinitely, middle schoolers may want independence and need some assistance, and Teens will want to be adults. It's up to you to see what your child is capable of doing on their own and to discuss diabetic healthy habits with them.
Every good parent wants the best for their child, and you can do that by listening to them during this new phase of life. It can make or break the way they respond to diabetes in adulthood.
What about Medication?
Note that it's important to understand the instructions of your child's doctor and never to exchange medications with another child's.
Not every medication prescribed for one person is good for the next person. Not only is mixing medications dangerous, but this can serve potentially negative side effects for your child.
The FDA produces many devices such as monitors and meters to regulate this information, and inject insulin using syringes, pens, or pumps.
This information can be overwhelming and is easier said than done. Rest assured, it does get easier with time, and there are several ways diabetes can be combated through regular physical activity and your doctor's FDA prescribed medications and devices.
In any case, your doctor will inform you on how to best form a diabetic management plan to help you get started.
Meters/Monitors to Use
Your doctor may have given you several options on what type of meters to choose and how to look for the right one. Like adults, children have to have their blood sugar checked several times a day.
This is important to understand because it can affect your child's next treatment, and when you follow up at a doctor's visit, they will want to know how your child is doing.
Depending on your child's age, it may be best to include your child in this process where applicable, allowing them to choose what device or tool is comfortable for them from what's available.
This way, the process will allow them to feel safe, and they are less likely to have issues using anything that may make them nervous. After all, it will be used on them.
Meters and Monitors are the only way to make sure your child's blood glucose is within the appropriate range and come in different styles and brands. According to the Diabetes Association, there are around 60 different kinds.
To use these devices, you need to purchase glucose test strips
and follow the instructions on the manual. A prick of the finger and a small sample of blood will read your child's test results.
Which one should you use? That's up to you. Check with your insurance to make sure they cover it, if not – they can be bought at any drugstore or pharmacy for a fair price.
Syringes, pens, and pumps are used to manually inject insulin and pumps are tools used to help monitor and maintain blood glucose levels. You can find these with us online at ExpressMed.com
Devices/Tools on the Road
It's perfectly fine for your child to be on the road while living with diabetes, they'll have to do it themselves one day. Having diabetes has is challenges, but it's empowering for them to see that there are no limits to what they can do when it comes to living their life.
Obviously, when traveling with your child you need to take medications and other devices you would normally give them when you're at home including non-emergency items like a first-aid kit.
Make sure you have an emergency kit handy in the car in case any other problems arise. To cover all bases it would be helpful to have your child's medical history and records in the kit if possible.
Carry healthy snacks, including veggies, fruits, nuts, and water to ensure that your child has everything they need on the road.
Peer pressure is something every teen deals with and their diabetes means that they have to take extra precautions to make sure they're taking care of themsleves. It's advised that you talk with them and guide them through their care. When your child becomes a teen driver, they may be alone or with friends. It'll be helpful to discuss with them what they need to be aware of as they are on the road to be safe and healthy.
Devices/Tools at School
It can be concerning as a parent when your child isn't around you. Since school is going to be a regular activity let your child's teachers and coaches be aware that your child has diabetes.
While most may store them with the nurse's office, or in a locker, have your child keep supplies close to them in a safe compartment. There may be unscheduled events where your child may need to check their glucose levels or insulin.
If they are going on school trips, or involved in athletics, it's especially important as they may be miles away from your home during this time.
During extracurricular activities, send supplies with your child. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), protects your child from discrimination. Allowing them to use their medical tools when and where needed.
Again, depending on their age, they may or may not know how to use their devices alone so it's important that you teach them. If they are very young that several trained staff members or adults know about it and how to use it.
Physical Activity & Diet
Paying attention to your child's diet such as what they consume at school or at home is an important factor to ensuring a healthy successful life. This doesn't mean they have to eat boring food. Monitor or limit extra portions and serving size.
Sugary items including candies, desserts, and drinks, are okay every once in awhile but should be limited. Maximize veggies, fruits, whole grains, and keep carbs balanced.
Diet and exercise play a huge part in how well your child is doing.
Both of these can not only affect a child's mood and performance but when the child has diabetes and do neither of these, it affects them even more.
Making sure your child gets exercise and healthy meals create a healthy body for them. It allows a natural and proper regulation of their digestive system and cardiovascular system.
The food they eat will disperse throughout their body and give them natural energy, and reduce their chances of bigger health issues.
Diabetic Emergency Checklist
Below is an emergency checklist all diabetics can use. Make sure to keep the items in a waterproof emergency kit for extra protection.
● Insulin, syringes, pumps
● Medication (prescriptions by doctor)
● Blood Glucose Meter, glucose strips
● Emergency Contact List (friends, family, etc.)
● Medical Documents & History
● Flashlights, extra batteries
● Fruits, snacks, hard candy
● Vitamins, juice, bottled water
For the best adjustment to this lifestyle, plan ahead. Find a diabetic parental support group if needed. Get a special calendar or planner so you can stay ahead, and be mindful of the amount of food your child consumes especially the contents.
Remember, your child needs to take insulin as prescribed and eat a healthy, balanced diet, paying special attention to the number of carbohydrates in each meal and form a diabetes meal plan if the doctor hasn't already recommended one.
Be sure to check their blood sugar levels several times a day as instructed and that your child gets regular exercise.
Follow up to any appointments scheduled by the doctor, and ask any and all questions you'd like to get a firm understanding of what your child needs and what you need to do.