Parenting your Child with Type 1 Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes. According to ADA, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that, properly controlled, does not have to decrease the quality of life of people who suffer from it. Children with diabetes require a series of specific care.

Next, we will explain what type 1 diabetes is and advice to raise children with this condition.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes develops during childhood as an autoimmune disorder towards the cells that produce insulin.

It represents between 10% of cases of diabetes and its maximum incidence occurs between 10-15 years. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas loses its ability to make insulin because the immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells of insulin. This hormone is necessary to allow glucose to enter the cells to produce energy, therefore, it is vital to counteract its deficit.

Currently, type 1 diabetes has no cure. Its treatment focuses on controlling blood glucose levels by administering insulin and a healthy lifestyle. The causes that trigger this disease are not exactly known, but it is believed that factors such as genetics and certain viruses can contribute to the appearance of it. Although type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or pre-adolescence, it can also begin in adulthood.

Advice for parenting children with type 1 diabetes

A healthy lifestyle will be a key factor in the control of childhood diabetes. Next, we will present a series of general recommendations so that both the family and the child can cope with diabetes and that it does not compromise their quality of life.

1. Knowledge of the disease

Once the child receives the diagnosis, it is very important that he/she knows the basic aspects of the disease and that we carry out a process of normalization in his / her closest environment, so that he/she adapts and learns to live with it.
The relatives and teachers must know the guidelines for action and participate in drug and emotional control of the child.

2. Feeding guidelines

The child with diabetes must adequately control the foods that he ingests during his life.

Food is key to the treatment of children with diabetes and it is very important that both at home and at school, the child is controlled and follows appropriate schedules. The main recommendations to take into account are the following:

Balanced feeding: it is necessary to control the amount of fat ingested by the child since this decreases the effect of insulin and favors the appearance of overweight. Fruits and vegetables, as well as high-quality proteins and complex carbohydrates should be included in all meals.

Limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates: it is essential to restrict their intake to avoid rapid rises in blood glucose. These foods include added sugars, industrial pastries, juices, honey or cookies.

Food at school: Teachers have to provide parents with weekly menus. In addition, if the child is very small, educators have to be aware that they have a second breakfast or lunch so that blood sugar levels remain stable.

3. Control of pharmacological treatment

Children with type 1 diabetes have to inject insulin several times a day: fast-acting before each meal and slow-acting once or twice a day.
We will try to administer the drug in a relaxed environment and preferably at home. Teachers have to know the procedure in case the child is too small and needs help to administer the injections.

4. Control of blood glucose

Children with diabetes need to be periodically checked, with a small pinch on the index finger to know their blood glucose levels. In school, the child should be able to do it in class or have a place where he feels comfortable doing it. Using a portable glucometer, the child can easily perform their periodic sugar checks.

5. Exercise

Children with diabetes can perform the same physical activities as other children of their age, as long as they follow a series of recommendations:
  • Blood sugar measurement before and after exercise to adapt the feeding if necessary.
  • Parents or teachers present during physical activity should have quick access to foods rich in carbohydrates in case of a drop in blood glucose (hypoglycemia).
In summary…

The current tools in the control of type 1 diabetes allow a good quality of life for these patients. In the case of children, it is necessary to know the characteristics of the disease on the part of parents and teachers to ensure good control of blood glucose.

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