Whether your child is getting ready for a full day of school or is heading off to soccer practice in the afternoon, you don't have to let their type 1 diabetes get in the way. A little advance planning goes a long way to make sure the day goes right -- and their blood sugar levels stay on track.
1. Check Your Child's Diabetes Supplies
Your child needs a bunch of items to manage their blood sugar. Make a checklist and run through it every morning to make sure they have everything for the day.
If your child can carry their own supplies, check that they're in their bag. Some things they'll need to bring with them:
- Blood sugar meter, testing strips, and lancets
- Insulin, syringes, or insulin pens. Even if your child uses an insulin pump, they still need a backup in case it breaks.
- Ketone meter and blood or urine test strips
- Fast-acting source of carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets or juice
- Glucagon emergency kit (if your doctor prescribes it)
- Antiseptic or wet wipes
If their school let you keep diabetes supplies at the nurse's office, make sure everything is up to date. Many items, including insulin, blood sugar meters, and testing strips, have expiration dates. You'll have to replace them regularly.
2. Map Out Meals and Snacks
Eating the right foods can help keep blood sugar levels steady. That's why you should follow the meal plan from your child's doctor or dietitian. Many recommend counting carbohydrates. That means setting a limit for the amount of carbs that your child can eat at each meal.
To stay on track, plan your child's meals and snacks ahead of time. If they eat the school lunch, find out what the cafeteria is serving. Many schools list their menus and nutritional information online at the start of the week. You can check the carbohydrate numbers of the dishes to figure out what your child can have.
If your child brings food from home, write down the number of carbs each item contains. This can help determine how much insulin they need. Your doctor may adjust the dose if your child doesn't eat the whole meal, or if they swap a food with a classmate.
3. Be Prepared for 'Lows'
It's important to get quick treatment. Your child should have a "low box" handy at all times. Inside this kit, pack a few fast-acting sources of carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets, hard candy, and juice.
Give a kit to your child's teachers, bus drivers, coaches, and care providers, and ask them to keep it handy.
4. Factor in Physical Activity
Whether your child is at baseball practice or gym class, exercise has an effect on their blood sugar. For a lot of kids, it causes a drop. In others, physical activity increases stress hormones and raises blood sugar levels.
To figure out how your child may react to exercise, test their blood sugar before and after their activity. This info can help manage their blood sugar levels. Your child may need to eat some carbs before they start moving, or their doctor may need to tweak their insulin dose.
In some cases, blood sugar can drop hours after exercising. It can even happen in the middle of the night. If this happens, talk to your doctor. They may tell you to check your child's blood sugar more often before bedtime, or change the insulin dose.
5. Ask About Special Events
At times, your child will have an occasion that requires extra prep work. They include field trips, parties, and after-school activities. Try these tips to keep your child healthy:
- Tell instructors, coaches, and chaperones about your child's diabetes. You should also make sure that someone with diabetes training will be on hand to help.
- Confirm that your child will have their diabetes supplies available.
- Check the location. Your child needs food, restrooms, and water throughout the day.
- Learn what dishes and snacks are being served. You can help your child choose what foods to eat, or you may decide to send your own diabetes-friendly treats.
- Ask about the program's schedule. Your child may be more active during these events, or they may eat at different times than normal, which could affect their blood sugar levels.
6. Have an Emergency Plan
Even with careful planning, your child's blood sugar can get too high or low. There should always be an adult nearby who has diabetes training. At school, that's someone on staff, such as a school nurse. For after-school activities, it can be a supervisor or sports coach. Give each person a copy of your emergency care plan. This written list explains what to do if a problem comes up and who to contact.