When a child is diagnosed with diabetes it can feel like a life sentence. Decades of careful eating, insulin injections, blood sugar tests and annual check ups stretch out before him or her at a time when perhaps the most challenging medical condition they’ve ever had is a skinned knee. Whether they know it or not, every child diagnosed with diabetes is scared of managing this condition, and a little understanding will go a long way. If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, understanding what this means for his or her daily life will help everyone in the family come to terms with it.
Diabetes is a medical condition in which the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood is too high. Glucose is made in the body in the by the liver, but also enters the body via certain foods such as:
- Sweets and chocolates.
- Fizzy drinks and drinks with added sugar.
- Potatoes and yams.
In a non-diabetic, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that regulates these glucose levels. In a diabetic, either this insulin is absent or does not work properly. There are two common types of diabetes known as:
- Diabetes Type I – in which the body can not produce insulin. This type of diabetes is normally diagnosed before the age of 40, and can be treated with insulin injections, diet regulation, and exercise.
- Diabetes Type II – in which the body produces either too little insulin, or insulin that can not regulate blood glucose levels. Generally, type II diabetes is diagnosed in patients who are significantly over weight and over the age of 40, though is this not always the case. Treatment for type II diabetes includes diet regulation, exercise, weight loss, and possibly tablets and/or the administration of insulin.
Diabetes can have multiple symptoms. Some of the most common early warning signs of diabetes are:
- Persistent thirst.
- Frequent urination, particularly at night.
- Weight loss.
- Blurred vision.
If your child is exhibiting these symptoms, take him or her to the GP immediately. A simple blood test will diagnose diabetes, though your GP may ask that your child refrain from eating overnight and have the blood drawn before eating breakfast.
Living with Diabetes
To live with diabetes is to manage diabetes. In addition to any particular treatments your doctor prescribes, such as tablets, insulin injections or an insulin pump, all diabetics will be advised to:
- Exercise. Just like anyone else, diabetics are advised to be active for at least thirty minutes, three times per week. Daily exercise is best.
- Eat well. This does not mean that diabetics must consume a special diet, but rather simply follow the guidelines recommended by the British Nutrition Foundation:
- A third of your child’s daily food intake should be bread, cereal or potatoes.
- Five different fruits and vegetables per day.
- Two to three servings of milk or dairy per day.
- Sensible portions of meat, fish or alternatives, including 2 servings of fish per week.
- A serving or less of fatty or sugary foods and drinks per day.
- At least six glasses of water per day, more if your child is active.
- Lose or maintain weight. It is important for diabetics, particularly those with type II diabetes, to maintain a weight within healthy guidelines. Ask your GP for advice on selecting, and meeting, a healthy goal weight.
Many children first diagnosed with diabetes fear that they are odd and will be labelled “different.” Educating family and friends on your child’s diabetes is your first line of attack to assure everyone, your child included, that nothing could be farther from the truth. Having diabetes will not dramatically alter your child’s future, nor will it prevent him or her from leading a full and rich life.