My child was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, what does it mean?
When your child has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you probably feel anxious and maybe even afraid. You probably wonder exactly what this means for your child and his or her long-term health. While there’s no cure for diabetes, it can be effectively managed with the help of your child’s doctor, dietitian, diabetes educator, and school.
The following are some common questions parents have when their child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes:
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed when your child’s body doesn’t make insulin. This hormone helps move sugar from your blood into cells, where it’s used for energy. Without insulin, blood sugar levels get too high. Insulin also helps your body build muscle. Without insulin, your child is less able to grow. This type of diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. It's common for parents to feel that they are to blame for their children developing type 1 diabetes. The exact cause is unknown, but it's not due to anything you have done!
What does treatment involve?
Treatment will help your child have enough insulin and help his or her body use it properly. Many parts of their treatment will also help them lead healthy lives in other ways, making them less likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, and other issues. Treatment will include the following:
Your child will need insulin therapy throughout their lives. They’ll need several injections of this hormone daily, or they may have an insulin pump to deliver it.
· Monitoring blood sugar levels
Your child’s blood sugar levels need to be monitored several times a day to make sure they’re not getting too high or too low.
· Healthy Eating
A proper diet is important for children who have diabetes. No foods will be completely off-limits, but their diet should be well-balanced and healthy. They should spread foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates (such as cereals and fruits) throughout the day instead of eating a lot of them at once. This is because carbohydrates can cause their blood sugar to rise quickly.
Regular physical activity will help your child’s body use insulin better. This can include various sports, bicycling, and running.
What about school?
If your child is old enough to attend school, you’ll need to inform school employees about your child’s diabetes. Talk with the principal, teachers, and school nurse about your child’s needs. Ask your health-care provider to fill out a Diabetes Medical Management Plan so you can give your child’s school specific information.
You may also want to create a 504 Plan, (which refers to a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities) to make sure everyone at school understands their responsibilities. It can also allow your child to have special accommodations if needed, such as extra trips to the bathroom or water fountain.
How can you and your child get the emotional support you may need?
When a child has diabetes, it affects the entire family. Your child may not personally know another child who has diabetes, and he or she may feel as if no one understands. Diabetes summer camps are a great way for children with diabetes to connect with each other. As a parent, you may also feel isolated. Your child’s doctor or another member of his or her health-care team can point your family toward a support group in your area. You can also connect with others online.
What about the long term?
You may wonder about the long-term effects of your child’s diabetes. If it isn’t controlled, high blood sugar can eventually cause problems for organs like the heart and kidneys, as well as other health issues. By working with your child as well as his or her school and health-care team, you can help them keep their blood sugar under good control. Children who have type 1 diabetes can live long, healthy, active lives, doing everything that people without diabetes do. Diabetes is nothing to ignore or take lightly, but it’s also nothing to fear.