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Type 1 diabetes is often called “juvenile diabetes” because it is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents. Diagnosis tends to occur between the ages of 4-7 and 10-14.
In families without a history of diabetes, getting diagnosed can be frightening and unexpected. Medical emergencies like severe hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis can be an uncomfortably quick introduction to the world of type 1 diabetes and blood glucose management.
What should I know?
After your child is diagnosed, your healthcare providers should work to educate you on how to best care for your child. Topics they may cover include carb counting, using a glucometer, different types of insulin, when to use insulin, and how to inject insulin. These skills will help you manage your child’s blood sugar to keep them healthy.
Your provider may even recommend using a continuous glucose monitor like the Dexcom G6 or Abbott Freestyle Libre so that your child can track their blood sugar with fewer fingersticks. In this case, you will learn how to place the monitor, sync it with a smartphone app or monitor reader, and set alerts when their blood sugar is too high or too low. Adhesive patches for Dexcom G6, Freestyle Libre or other CGMs can help keep these devices in place for up to 14 days, even when you’re exercising.
How do I keep a diabetic child healthy?
Whether your child is diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the goal of treatment is much the same. Keeping their blood glucose levels within a healthy limit will help prevent complications of diabetes. Your healthcare provider will help you set goals for the target blood glucose you should reach and how to manage those levels. Treatment can depend heavily on the age of your child, as not all forms of insulin, insulin pumps, or CGMs are recommended for all pediatric patients.
In addition to managing blood glucose, health goals for children with diabetes are similar to the health goals of children without insulin problems. Children should be encouraged to eat an ample, balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. They should also be encouraged to engage in active play, such as running, jumping, skipping, and spending time with friends.
Not only does a balanced diet and an active life encourage healthy growth and physical development, these are critical components to managing diabetes across a lifetime. Doing these activities as a family can lead to improved health outcomes for parents and siblings, too.
Lastly, parents of children with type 1 diabetes should provide education to their children about their condition early and often to empower children to make healthy choices. Because children often spend time away from their parents at school, friends’ houses, camps, etc., it is important that they understand their particular health conditions and how to care for their bodies.
Parents of children with type 1 diabetes often become informal diabetes educators themselves, as they educate their children, teachers, school administrators, friends, and family about the condition and the issues their child may face.
Parenting beyond physical health
As with many chronic health conditions, diabetes comes with its own unique mental health challenges. This can include anxiety, fear, depression, and frequent feelings of being overwhelmed. For pediatric cases of diabetes, these mental health struggles don’t just affect the patient but the whole family. Adult caretakers are responsible for helping their kids manage their mental health while balancing their own worries, fears, etc.
While some may feel the need to hide these vulnerable emotions from their children, research shows that forming a care plan alongside diabetic children creates better outcomes for children and parents. Working together to voice concerns and fears and decide how to best address them allows both parties to alleviate concerns and find emotional validation.
Developing routines, schedules, and care plans can help create an atmosphere of stability that allows parents and children to feel more secure. Many fears and anxieties are rooted in the unknown, and developing routines can make caring for diabetes feel more “normal.” Over time, children and families learn to manage their condition with ease, particularly as children become more self-sufficient and more treatment options become available to them.
Joining groups online or in person may also help families find a community that normalizes their lifestyle. Skin Grip is a strong supporter of the diabetes community, as the more connected we feel, the happier we are. We want people with diabetes around the world to feel like their struggles are relatable, the condition is manageable, and they can do anything they set their mind to. To support the community, on the 11th of each month, we donate 100% of our online profits to a type 1 diabetes charity of our customers’ choice. If you are interested in getting a voice in who we donate to, you can visit our Instagram page and vote in our stories or recommend a charity in our DMs.
Our motto is to live without limits. If you are interested in keeping your child’s CGM sensor secure, no matter how hard they play, try a sample of our hypoallergenic tape and adhesive patches for diabetic sensors and devices. And to help your kids move from fearful to fearless, have them tune into our vlog to see people who are traveling with inspiring courage on their diabetes journey.