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Type 1 Diabetes in Children: Caring for Your Child - Topic Overview

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.

Diet

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 change.

School

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 your child.

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.

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