When you find out that your child has type 1 diabetes, there’s a lot of new information to take in, and changes to your family’s lifestyle. Your child’s heath care team will help you and your child learn how to make diabetes part of everyday life.
The team may include:
- Your child’s regular pediatrician for general care
- A pediatric endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating children with diabetes and other endocrine conditions)
- A certified diabetes educator
- A dietitian for advice on meals and snacks
- An optometrist or ophthalmologist to take care of your child’s eyes
- A mental health professional (usually a social worker or psychologist)
More on each of those professionals below. They’ll be important as you and your child learn things like how to:
- Check blood sugar levels several times a day
- Plan when and what to eat
- Know how physical activity will affect your child’s diabetes
- Take insulin by shot or with an insulin pump
Although there isn’t a cure for type 1 diabetes, good control of the condition can let your child can lead a normal, active life. The health care team is there to help make that happen.
Your Child’s Regular Pediatrician
The pediatrician will make sure that all parts of your child’s health care are managed and can also make referrals to other specialists.
Pediatric endocrinologists have had special training to understand the specific medical and emotional needs of young children and teens, and can give them the best care.
Your child’s pediatric endocrinologist will:
- Give your child a physical exam
- Ask you questions about your child’s diet and exercise habits
- Ask you how comfortable you are with managing your child’s diabetes
- Check for any complications
- See how much insulin your child takes and how often, and make changes if needed
- Prescribe other medicines, if needed
Certified Diabetes Educator
This professional may be a nurse, dietitian, social worker, doctor, or pharmacist with special knowledge and training in helping people learn about and manage diabetes.
The diabetes educator works with you and your child to build a plan to stay healthy, and gives you the tools and ongoing support to make that plan a regular part of your life.
The certified diabetes educator will:
- Help you and your child understand what diabetes is and how it affects the body
- Show you how to give insulin shots or use an insulin pump
- Explain how to adjust medicine for physical activity and being sick
- Demonstrate how to test blood sugar using a blood sugar meter
- Show you how to identify and treat high or low blood sugar
- Answer questions and work with you to come up with solutions for your child’s needs
Dietitians are experts in nutrition and meal planning. They can explain how food affects blood sugar and help you make a meal plan that takes into account your child’s preferences and foods your family likes.
The dietitian will:
- Track your child’s growth
- Make adjustments to meal plans to manage physical activity and holidays, and as your child’s needs change over time
- Share recipe ideas
- Help you and your child learn how to make healthy food choices
- Show you how to count carbohydrates (carbs), read food labels, and plan meals
Optometrist or Ophthalmologist
- Place drops in your child’s eyes to widen the pupils
- Examine each eye using a special magnifying lens
Your child’s eyes may stay dilated and be sensitive to light for several hours.
Mental Health Professional
Usually a social worker or psychologist, this expert can help you and your child handle the major lifestyle changes that come with diabetes.
The mental health professional can:
- Support your family through the ups and downs of life with diabetes
- Help your child deal with any problems at home or school
- Help your child manage diabetes routines, like healthy eating and taking insulin shots
- Watch for signs of depression in teens with diabetes, and help get treatment. Not all teens with diabetes get depressed, but if it does happen, it’s best to start treatment ASAP.
Everyone is different, and treatment decisions and plans should fit your child’s needs. It’s important that you feel comfortable communicating with every member of your child’s health care team. Ask lots of questions, and make sure answers are explained in detail so you fully understand.
It may take some time before you and your child get used to day-to-day life with diabetes. But it gets easier, and your health care team is there to help you every step of the way.