As soon as the initial panic of finding out your child has Type 1 diabetes wears off, the reality of monitoring blood sugar, counting carbohydrates and learning to give shots sets in.
But, with patience and perseverance, you can help your child live an active, healthy and productive life.
Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes because it usually is diagnosed in children and young adults. There is no cure. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, which the body needs to move glucose from the blood into the cells. Glucose is a sugar the body makes from sugars and starches in food. Treatment for Type 1 diabetes entails taking insulin through injections or an insulin pump for life.
Help Your Child with Type 1 Diabetes Stay Healthy
Managing your child’s Type 1 diabetes is a delicate balance that requires careful surveillance. Here are a few tips to help you cope:
Stay flexible. As your child grows, treatment will change. Diet, exercise, sleep and growth spurts are factors.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it a day at a time. Some days will go better than others.
Work closely with your child’s care team. This may include a doctor, diabetes educator and dietitian.
Get organized. Keep a log of glucose readings and a notebook with your child’s health records.
Serve up a healthy diet. While there’s not a specific Type 1 diabetes diet, your child needs lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Meats and sweets should be kept to the minimum. Work with a dietitian to learn how your whole family can eat healthier.
Get your child moving. Like everyone, children and teens with Type 1 diabetes need exercise. Read how to encourage your couch potato to be active.
Be sure your child wears a medical identification tag.
Work with the school. Be sure school nurses know the symptoms of blood sugar problems and how to give insulin if needed.
Talk, talk, talk – and seek help if needed. Diabetes can have an emotional impact on children and teens. Communicate openly and often with your child, and don’t be afraid to get counseling if problems arise.
Teach teens to care for themselves. Help them start to navigate to independence as their maturity allows.
Most importantly, try to keep a positive attitude about your child’s Type 1 diabetes. It will rub off on your child and help both of you feel better.
Does your child have Type 1 diabetes? Do you have questions?
Linda Ly, M.D., is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who cares for patients at Meyerland Plaza Clinic. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine, hypertension and diabetes. Dr. Ly has been recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) for excellence in diabetes care. She was recently named Physician of the Year by the Houston Chapter of the American Diabetes Association.