A diagnosis of a chronic disease causes a wealth of questions and fears. How will this affect our lives? How do we manage this disease? It is an emotionally overwhelming diagnosis. However, what if this diagnosis is for your child and not you? That adds a whole new dimension to the situation and a diagnosis of diabetes — type 1 or type 2 — can disrupt your entire life in the beginning. You fear for your child, and for his future. But knowledge is power and diabetes can be managed successfully.
Getting to know Diabetes
Diabetes affects blood sugar, or glucose, preventing insulin from properly managing blood sugar. In response to a rise in glucose, typically after a meal, the pancreas manufactures insulin and releases it into the bloodstream to push glucose into the cells to fuel the body’s energy. If the body is unable to react to the release of insulin, or the pancreas is unable to make the proper amount of insulin, glucose remains in the bloodstream causing high blood sugar.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, both types cause blood sugar to rise, but the mechanism between the two is different. Type 1diabetes, a.k.a. juvenile diabetes is caused when the pancreas no longer makes insulin due to the body’s own defenses destroying the pancreas’ insulin producing cells and rendering them useless to control the body’s insulin levels. Type 1diabetes is a lifelong condition, and kids with type 1diabetes will need to take insulin daily in the form of insulin injections or an insulin pump.
In type 2 diabetes, the problem is not the absence of insulin, but, instead is the body’s inability to respond to insulin properly. Insulin is still produced by the pancreas, but the supply is inadequate.
Life Goes On
A diagnosis of diabetes does not mean a child’s life has to stop. Children with diabetes can generally do anything other children can do, but they must be aware of their limitations. Many holidays revolve around or include special foods that may cause blood sugar to rise. Planning ahead can avoid most difficulties.
Your child’s doctor can suggest how to handle extra carbohydrates. He or she may recommend the use of extra insulin in these situations. If the celebration is at a friend’s house and you will not be in attendance, be certain to speak with the hostess and let her know about your child’s condition, and how to manage what he eats. Ideally, the guest list will include an adult who is familiar with child diabetes and how to care for the child.
It is important to teach children with diabetes how to decide what foods are okay to eat. If there is food being served that is unfamiliar to your child, teach him to ask what is in a particular dish. During an outing with unfamiliar foods, it is important that blood sugar levels are checked more frequently.
Outings that involve food, such as eating out will need to be approached with an eye to the special needs of children with diabetes. Many times planning ahead will make everything much easier. Good advice to follow is perusing the restaurant’s menu online and deciding which foods will pass the test. Food portions in restaurants tend to be at least 50 percent more than anyone should eat at one time, so request when you order one-half of the portion to be boxed up to take home, leaving a manageable portion on your child’s plate. This is good advice for everyone.
Diabetes is not the end of life as we know it; it is simply a condition that requires diligence and smart choices along the way.