If your child has been recently diagnosed with diabetes, it’s normal to feel worried, overwhelmed or helpless, but teaching your child how to manage their diabetes will put both yours and their mind at rest. Though MySelfCare understands that adjusting your child’s lifestyle to accommodate their health needs is not an easy task, a little more knowledge can go a long way. Here are our tips on how to assist and support a child learning to manage diabetes.
Nobody dislikes injections and blood tests more than young children, but for kids with diabetes, it is paramount that blood tests become a vital part of everyday life. Monitoring your child’s blood glucose levels will allow you to better control and prevent high and low blood sugar.
If your child is reluctant or scared to monitoring their blood sugar levels in this way, be sure to validate their worries, but encourage and comfort them by reassuring them that it will make them feel good in the long run. Depending on how old your child is – or how good they are at recognising hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia – their blood glucose levels should be checked at least four times a day. Here are our tips for taking a blood sugar reading at home:
Both MySelfCare’s headphone jack glucometer and hand held glucometer make it easy for you to measure and track your child’s blood sugar levels, making it easier for both you and your child to manage diabetes.
High blood glucose levels can lead to hyperglycemia – or ‘hypers’ – if your child’s blood sugar levels are extremely high, they may feel tired, have trouble concentrating, develop a headache or have a need to drink more water than usual. If your child is experiencing hypers regularly, or at particular times of day or week, their routine may need to be altered – be this in their eating habits or in the amount of insulin administered.
It is also incredibly important that both you and your child are able to recognise ‘hypos’. Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar falls below normal levels, which can be scary for parents and children who are new to managing diabetes. It is not uncommon for children – particularly younger children or those who are newly diagnosed – to have hypo-unawareness. That is, being unable to recognise the symptoms of hypoglycaemia, which can include irritability or hyperactivity, dizziness, nausea or confusion. It’s completely normal to be concerned about child’s risk of hypoglycemia, but with frequent blood sugar monitoring and a healthy, well thought-out diet and routine goes a long way to managing diabetes and avoiding hypos and hypers.
As is the case with managing various long-term health conditions and dietary requirements, the key to managing diabetes is planning ahead. If you are away from home, always ensure that you have enough insulin, snacks and hypo treatments. Snacks of under 10g carbs (e.g. a handful of blueberries, a small portion of seeds, a kiwi) are a great on-the-go choice for diabetics. When eating out, it is worth looking at the menu ahead of time, so that you know how much carbs and sugar will be in the meal that your child would like to order.
A healthy, balanced diet with sugary treats and fatty foods in moderation is a great lifestyle for anyone to adopt. Though diabetes has become synonymous with a hugely modified diet and the exclusion of certain food groups, that is simply not the case – a healthy meal for a diabetic looks exactly the same as a healthy meal for a non-diabetic. If you eat healthy meals as a family, your child will not feel excluded or limited by their health condition. Even on treat nights, your child can still tuck into a pizza or have a piece of cake – this just needs to be taken into account when monitoring blood sugar levels and administering insulin. Carb counting is a useful way of keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates consumed in each meal – managing diabetes does not have to be about limiting your child’s lifestyle, though they do need to understand that their body processes certain foods differently, so tests and insulin need to be shaped around this.