According to statistics from the Canadian Pediatric Society, 33,000 school age children (5-18 years old) in Canada have Type 1 Diabetes, and there are several thousands under the age of 5.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition whereby the pancreas can no longer produce any or enough insulin. Therefore, the treatment of type 1 diabetes is the administration of insulin through daily injections or an insulin pump. The amount of insulin needed has to be balanced with the amount of food, exercise and overall health, including stress and emotional health.
What are the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children?
Type 1 diabetes usually develops quickly, and may include the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst.
- Frequent urination, possibly bed-wetting in a toilet-trained child.
- Extreme hunger.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Irritability or behavior changes.
- Fruity-smelling breath.
What to do if your child has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
Finding out your child has diabetes can be overwhelming. It’s completely normal to feel sad, angry, worried, guilty or desperate to help your child manage his or her disease. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you and your child manage their diagnosis.
The first step is teaching your child about diabetes.
It’s important to talk to your child about how he or she is feeling about her diagnosis, and help alleviate her fears. Learn about what diabetes is together, including how it will affect your family and how best to manage it. Your healthcare team can help you explain things to your child in a simple way.
As your child grows, he or she will also grow into the responsibility of taking care of their own diabetes. Help your child learn the things they need to know now so that they can take charge later.
Start with the basics, including what diabetes is, and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. When your child has grasped the basics, help them learn to take control of her condition and teach them the importance of measuring results.
The second step is getting prepared.
It’s important to make a few changes to your lifestyle to ensure that you can effectively help your child manage their diabetes. To better prepare:
- Create a schedule – make diabetes management a part of your child’s daily routine
- Stock up on diabetes care products and check them regularly to ensure they’re not expired
- Find some recipes – food and nutrition play a huge role in the management of diabetes. Consult a dietician to help adapt your favourite family recipes and get some new ideas.
- Prepare for school – have your child keep a diabetes kit at school with snacks, glucose tabs, and testing strips. You may consider sending an extra meter as well. Remind your child to check their kit occasionally, to ensure it has everything they need.
The third step is implementing healthy eating habits.
As mentioned earlier, healthy eating is a vital part of diabetes management. Here are some nutrition tips to get you started:
- Create and enforce a food routine: Eating at regular times will help keep a child’s blood sugar levels under control. Meal planning should be individualized to accommodate your child’s preferences, age, needs, etc. Be consistent in carbohydrate intake, spacing and regularity of meals.
- Monitor your child’s sugar intake: Sugar will spike your child’s blood glucose levels. Limit sugars and sweets, including regular pop, desserts, candies, jam and honey.
- Help your child maintain a healthy weight: A healthy weight helps with blood glucose control. Limit high fat foods, such as fried foods, chips and pastries.
- Encourage your child to eat high fibre foods: These foods may help your child feel full and lower blood sugar levels. Encourage high-fibre foods including whole grain breads and cereals, lentils, dried beans and peas, brown rice, vegetables and fruits.
- Help your child make smart drink choices: Teach your child that regular pop and fruit juice will raise his or her blood sugar. Encourage your child to drink water or milk.
- Help your child get active: Add regular physical activity to your child’s routine to help keep their blood sugar under control.
Finally, encourage your child to stay active!
Staying active helps your child use up energy and can help them manage their blood sugar. Help your child find an activity they love, such as swimming, playing soccer or riding a bike. Once a favourite activity has been chosen here are some tips to help them play safe.
- Let coaches and teachers know that your child has diabetes, and to watch for the signs of low blood sugar.
- Give your child and their coaches fast-acting sugar just in case your child’s blood sugar gets low. Good options include:
- 15 g of glucose (glucose tablets)
- 15 mL (3 tsp) or 3 packets of table sugar dissolved in water
- 175 mL (3/4 cup) of juice or regular soft drink
- 6 Life Savers® (1=2.5 g of carbohydrates)
- 15 mL (1 tbsp) of honey
Living with type 1 diabetes requires a change in lifestyle, but these changes can be easily managed. Caring for your child can be easier when you have the information, resources, and support you need. Learn more about diabetes so that you can better understand your child’s condition and help him or her manage it to the best of their ability.
This post was sponsored by Ascensia Diabetes Care Canada Inc. BC Parent sees the value in sharing this information with our readers.