Children of all ages and teenagers can be diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. While it may be surprising to get this diagnosis, don’t worry. Diabetes is manageable, and your child can lead a normal life. Gina Labovitz, MD, FAAP, at Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics in Hoover, Alabama, offers the following advice for parents.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a medical condition of the endocrine system. When someone has diabetes, their body can’t make or use sugar properly. This means the energy from the food they eat can’t make it to their cells, which could lead to other health problems. There are two types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, develops when the body can’t make insulin, because the immune system attacks insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose (sugar) get into cells. When this doesn’t happen, blood sugar levels rise.
Type 2 diabetes
This type of diabetes was more prevalent in adults, but as more children become overweight or obese at younger ages, more are developing the condition. In this case, the body makes insulin, but the body doesn’t respond to it normally. As it becomes harder to get glucose into cells, blood sugar levels rise.
How can I help my child manage diabetes?
The first step in helping your child or teen live with diabetes is to educate them on their type and how it developed. We can help you find age-appropriate language and teaching tools to explain diabetes in a way they can understand. Once they grasp what’s going on, it’ll be easier to help them manage it now and in the future.
Managing Type 1 diabetes
The most important thing with this type of diabetes is to control blood sugar levels so your child can grow and develop normally. We’ll let you know what blood sugar levels are right for your child. Your goal is to monitor these levels and keep them within this range.
Since their own body doesn’t make insulin, they need insulin injections given by a small needle or through an insulin pump. This will help to keep their blood sugar levels stable, so their body can function normally.
At this time, there’s no cure for diabetes, so your child will have to manage it for their entire life. This can be done by:
- Taking insulin as prescribed by Dr. Labovitz
- Eating a healthy, nutritious diet with proper carbohydrate counts
- Monitoring blood sugar levels
- Exercising regularly
Managing Type 2 diabetes
Most people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, so helping your child or teen lose weight is essential to their health and longevity. This is because extra fat makes it harder for the cells to respond to insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels and other health complications.
Diabetes management skills are key. Teach them about:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Checking blood sugar levels as directed
- Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly
- Taking insulin or other medications as prescribed
- Watching for other health problems and speaking up when they have a concern
Living a healthy and active lifestyle is essential for children and teens with diabetes. They can still hang out with their friends, play sports, participate in clubs, or do anything else they want to do. But they may need to carry snacks and drinks in their backpack, tell their coaches about their condition, or see the school nurse more often.
Learning to monitor their blood sugar levels, taking insulin as prescribed, eating healthy foods, and scheduling their meals and snacks can be overwhelming. Your child may struggle with managing all of this, so the more you can help them with time management and meal preparation and planning, the better.
Helping your child or teen navigate through life as they live with diabetes can be a challenge, but it can be done. Your child’s diabetes care team is here for you every step of the way, so be sure to contact us with any questions or concerns.
To have your child tested for diabetes, or to learn how to manage it better, book an appointment online or over the phone with Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics today.